Kristina Morales Larson and K9 Pax
My name is SSG Kristina Morales Larson. I have been in the Army Reserves almost 14 years now and work full time for the Dakota Communications Center, first as a 911 Dispatcher and now as a Dispatch Supervisor. I grew up in a small town in Southwest Minnesota, called Hadley. My husband and I (SSG, US Army Reserves for 19 years) live in
Eagan, MN with our two daughters and two cats.
I served two rotations on a Mobilization at Fort Bliss, TX (2018-2019) assisting with Mobilization and Demobilization Operations before being deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan in 2020-2021. I spent the majority of the deployment in Kuwait until a need for my MOS arose in Afghanistan in June 2021. Due to mission conflicts and safety concerns, I was placed within the Special Operations Command as support.
I returned home in September 2021. My husband, Josemy, did his best to prepare me for the challenges of transition, but even as a "Frequent Flyer" with 4 deployments in Afghanistan and 2 additional mobilizations, there was nothing that could prepare me for what came next. Even with overwhelming support from family and friends, I felt like I was in a completely different world and isolated myself from everyone I knew.
I have been by my husband's side as he's had his own struggles with PTSD and anxiety, but it's an entirely different experience going through it personally. When I got home, I immediately started receiving care at the VA but still found myself pushing people away and isolating myself. The anxiety of going to the grocery store got to be too much for me. I couldn't sleep, and when I could, 16 hours a day wasn't enough. I started experiencing night terrors and panic attacks and had anxiety attacks in groups larger than 4 or 5 people. Everything I knew seemed to have changed overnight and I felt like an alien.
We've come a long way since then, but there are still many medical challenges I face with mobility as well as the daily issues with anxiety, my identity and my purpose in this world. My heart has always been that of a true servant and I will give everything I have to help someone else but usually put myself last. Telling people that I go to the VA for Mental Health Care or that I take an abundance of medications to keep me functioning is hard to do, but it's even harder to do, all by myself. The mere idea of a service dog joining me on this next phase of my life's quest has brought me hope again. It has reminded me that none of us fight alone and having a service dog is not only a way to help me navigate my daily challenges, but may also open doors to share that hope with other Veterans and First Responders.