Nightingale Award Winner - Cherissa Jackson, RN
Quite a Journey
Photo Credit: Reflections of Zion Imagery ©
Cherissa Jackson is the Chief Medical Executive at AMVETS (American Veterans), a registered nurse, a veteran and a proud post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) survivor.
Cherissa Jackson, RN
Cherissa Jackson has covered a lot of ground. She traveled thousands of miles to complete her tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back at home, she has logged hundreds of miles running—in an attempt to outrun her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As the Chief Medical Executive at AMVETS (American Veterans), Cherissa is using her skills as a registered nurse and her personal experience with PTSD to help other veterans recover.
As a single mom to twin daughters, a veteran, a nurse and a leader, Cherissa has overcome some major obstacles—but none has compared to PTSD. Cherissa served 23½ years in the U.S. Air Force, many of them as a nurse. She served as a battlefield clinician in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and in Afghanistan in 2011.
“I treated soldiers for PTSD. I knew the signs,” Cherissa recalled. “When I started experiencing some of those same symptoms, I hid in silence for five years.”
When her daughters left for college, Cherissa stopped hiding. “I had a PTSD break. I knew I had to get help,” she explained.
Years later, Cherissa has learned how to manage her PTSD. She uses a tried-and-true regimen of faith, meditation and exercise to keep her disorder at bay. Exercise is key. She said, “I tell people all the time that when I run, I sweat like crazy. That’s me purging those bad thoughts and feelings. That is me getting rid of what I experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Cherissa has shared her struggles with PTSD in several national magazines, and she wrote a best-selling memoir, “At Peace, Not in Pieces” about her experiences. “I strive to inspire others not to live in silence,” she said. “There is a way to be functional and not be ashamed to admit you have PTSD.”
When she joined AMVETS in 2019, Cherissa began running the organization’s HEAL program. HEAL, which stands for healthcare, evaluation, advocacy and legislation, aims to reduce veteran suicide, unemployment, homelessness and hopelessness by providing vital resources.
In addition to her work with HEAL, Cherissa is concentrated on elevating the issues that women veterans face. She created the Women Veteran Journey Map, an online tool that illustrates the unique experiences of women service members.
Cherissa may have suffered in silence for far too long, but she is sharing her journey with PTSD and advocating for other veterans now. She’s covered a lot of miles, and she is determined to leave markers to help those who follow.