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Decades after assault, Women’s Army Corps veteran finds hope and healing

Decades after assault, Women’s Army Corps veteran finds hope and healing

This story is part of DAV’s 2024 report, Women Veterans: The Journey to Mental Wellness. The report is a comprehensive assessment of the unique factors contributing to the staggering rates of suicide among women veterans and how the system charged with their mental health care can and must do better. Learn more at womenveterans.org.  

During the 2022 DAV and Auxiliary National Convention, Ginger MacCutcheon learned about a suicide prevention program that she said changed her life.

MacCutcheon, a veteran of the Women’s Army Corps and commander of DAV Chapter 116 in Parma, Ohio, had attempted suicide twice in her life—in 1980, two years after she was discharged, and again in the 1990s.

What nobody else knew at the time was that MacCutcheon had survived several violent sexual assaults while in service.

“I went back home and I didn’t tell anyone anything,” she said. “I always blamed myself.”

MacCutcheon kept what happened to herself for decades, through abusive relationships and periods of suicidal ideation. She was completely unaware that she could receive mental health treatment or other care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Then one day during a volunteer event, something triggered post-traumatic stress symptoms for MacCutcheon, and a fellow veteran took notice.

“And he actually took me and signed me up for VA health care, and that was the first I got any help,” she said, adding that the VA “rallied” around her and got her into counseling.

“But I think that if I had gotten treatment earlier in my life, that it wouldn’t have been such a train wreck.”

In 2022, she was introduced to Save A Warrior, a nonprofit organization working to end the staggering number of suicides among veterans, service members and first responders. With a grant from the DAV Charitable Service Trust, Save A Warrior opened a National Center of Excellence for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress in Hillsboro, Ohio, in June 2022. MacCutcheon attended later that fall.

“[They] dealt with me as a whole person, like my whole 65 years,” MacCutcheon said. “I was a changed person when I got out of there.”

At the following DAV national convention, MacCutcheon said she did something she never would have before: In a dark, crowded ballroom, she joined a friend and fellow Save a Warrior participant on the dance floor as they moved to the sounds of Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.

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