Women of the Military

Finding Healing through Yoga in the Army - Episode 81

Episode Summary

Can yoga help you when you can’t cope with life? Hear Benef’s story of being at her wits end while serving in the Army. She was a mom, dual military spouse, serving on active duty. She needed a way to find healing and keep moving forward. She found that through Yoga.

Episode Notes

This episode is sponsored by Christopher Travel.

Are you thinking of planning a road trip this summer, Christopher Travel is excited to offer a 50% discount to the Women of the Military Podcast followers on all its semi-custom and custom road trip itineraries, or opt for the basic pre planned itinerary for just $5. Each itinerary includes the high level of detail for which Christopher Travel is known. These itineraries immerse you in the fun, quirky and quintessential experiences of the great American road trip. Wherever the road leads, you can just relax and enjoy the adventure because Christopher Travel has done all the planning for you visit them on the web to learn More go to https://christopher.travel/womenofthemilitarypodcast/

Benefsheh Verell (Benef) is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel with twenty years of active duty service. She graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point in 1997 and has a Masters of Science in Physical Geography from the University of Maryland. She spent ten years as a Military Police officer and ten years as an Information Operations officer. 

As a retiree, Benef remains passionate about educating service members of the benefits mindfulness practices have on the mind and body. She’s trained to teach trauma sensitive yoga and is also on the board of directors of Warriors at Ease, a non-profit organization that brings mindfulness practices to the military and veteran communities. She’s an iRest (Integrative Restoration) meditation teacher and advocates to have mindfulness practices as part of a regular resiliency program that starts in basic training and continues throughout a service member’s career. 

Benef continues to serve as a spouse and retiree through volunteering in the community as the president of the Zama Community Spouses Association, the treasurer for the Boy Scouts, advocating for mindfulness practices in the military, educating senior leaders about the benefits of mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, and mentoring service members and spouses. She is the author of Military and Mindful: Eight Essential Elements to Manage Your Military Career and Motherhood.

In this episode we talked about the challenges of attending West Point. We also covered the challenges of being dual military. It is often difficult for dual military couples to manage their service, having a family and being separated due to deployments and TDYs. Benef found herself struggling with life and that is when she found yoga as a place of healing and refocusing. It changed her life. 

After 20 years of service she transitioned out of the military. She found many challenges, although she was ready to leave the military. She wasn’t ready for the transition and what life would mean without her military service. She transitioned to the role of military spouse and mom. It has been a struggle, but through hard work and learning who she was and who she wanted to be she is thriving today and even wrote a book. 

Connect with Benef (contains affiliate links):


Instagram account

Mentioned in this Episode (contains affiliate links):

Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

Related Episodes:

Mourning My Military Service – Episode 47

From West Point to Iraq – Episode 38

Serving in Iraq (the kickoff, the surge, the drawdown) – Episode 32

Post 9/11 Female Work Force Experience - Episode 78

Include Transitioning guide for the graphic for this blog post


Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman  00:00

Welcome to Episode 81 of the Women of the Military Podcast. This week. My guest is Benef Verrell. She is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel with 20 years of active duty service. And she graduated from West Point in 1997. And spent 10 years as a military police officer and 10 years as an information operations officer. We talked about her military experience. And then we also talked about what she's doing today and the benefits of mindfulness practices, and what she has learned and she talked about her book and how she's taking mindfulness to help military members. So it's another great episode. So let's get started. You're listening to the women of the military podcast where we share the stories of female servicemembers and how the military touch their lives. I'm your host, military, veteran, military spouse and mom, Amanda Michael is to find the heart of the story and uncover issues women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women, and be inspired to change the world, keep tuned for this latest episode of Women of the Military.  Benef, Welcome to the show. I'm excited to hear your story.

Benefsheh Verell  01:47

Thank you so much for having me. This is exciting. I just I love what you're doing, telling people's stories because it really does need to be told and I feel like you're taking a step towards bridging that. gap between civilian population and the military population, which is just so important. Thank you.

Amanda Huffman  02:07

Yeah, it really is. Yeah. Thank you. So let's start with why did you decide to join the military?

Benefsheh Verell  02:14

So I guess it was the summer before my senior year in high school, the United States Military Academy at West Point, sent a brochure to the house. And my dad was like, that's a good school, you should apply. And I'm like, yeah, you say so cuz I had no idea what it was. And so he made me apply. Because I was like, so much work about doing that. Because you have to get the nomination and all that. And so I applied, and then when I got in, I thought, Oh, I should really go like it was one of those moments where I just knew that if I didn't go, I would regret it. Like, it was like just an intuitive moment, and I did go and that was it. I had no idea what I was going to get to and everyone I thought I was going to be like private Benjamin, because I was kind of really girly. And just, you know, I didn't like getting dirty. And I didn't really do a lot of physical activity. I mean, I played sports, but you know. So yeah, it was a shock to all my friends and family.

Amanda Huffman  03:14

So do you have any military background? Or did your dad just say, this is a good school? You should go there. 

Benefsheh Verell  03:21

Well, he was in. He had enlisted in the Navy during Vietnam, but just did like the first term enlistment. And then he was also in the Army National Guard in Wisconsin. But other than that, no, we had no military background, my mother's from Afghanistan, and none of her family was in the military prior to the wars starting with the Russians invading and then they just kind of had to fight but there was no military background. So it was like the first you know, person to really join the army. All right. So what was it was it like completely culture shock when you went to West Point i mean i i my mom was definitely a disciplined person and so I was used to discipline and following rules but I didn't know how to do anything like to shine shoes to you had to shine breath like everything had to be in its place I didn't know how to fire a weapon. I've never really done any push ups. So it I was very thankful for all those prep school prior service people because they they really helped me like just taught me how to do stuff. I didn't know how to do anything. It was just like, I'm surprised I even remember anything from that first summer that beast summer because I was like in a fog, just you know, like a fire hose taking everything in. So it was a culture shock for sure. And I kind of looked at it as a game honestly because that first one They started playing Welcome to the Jungle, like dozen roses. And then he just started like banging on trash cans and like yelling at us. And I was like, Okay, this is not real, but it was like surreal. And I'm like, but I can do this, like, this is a game. Okay? They're gonna be yelling at us. I can get through this. And I did not that at all. In fact, it just got worse academic year was even harder with all of the upperclassman there. And school.

Amanda Huffman  05:30

Yeah, I read Beyond the Point this year, which is a story written by a military child who interviewed a bunch of women who went to West Point. And so she talked about like, it's a novel. It's based on real events, but it's not like an actual real story. And she talked about West Point and like the years that they were at West Point, I was just like, oh my goodness, this is so much harder than I ever imagined. It could be because of like, I just thought of like the BEAST Summer and then I didn't realize like, how they had to, like square their corners. And they had to like, say different things different upperclassmen. And like, the whole first year, it was kind of like, it sounded like hell. And then each year got a little bit better. It was actually, really,

Benefsheh Verell  06:21

It was very difficult because they're just trying to not screw up and like everything had to be just announcing food at the table. And then, so we would learn how to announce stuff. But then one day, we show up to lunch, and they're soup and like, we've never done soup before. So now we don't know how to serve soup or what to say. Or we show up to the table and it's like, closed and that means we have to float. You know, I don't even know what that means. And I gotta go find a place to sit somewhere else in a completely different company. needs people. I don't know. You know, oh my gosh, yeah, I made it. So we were just learning how to adapt like moment by moment, and learning how to work together as a team to function to complete, like we had to deliver the laundry, and the mail, but they had to be delivered together, sorted and then they had to be delivered together. But it had to be by class. So you had to do the senior, the first classmen first and on down and you couldn't go into their room twice. So then if there was like a, like a senior, or rooming with a junior, you know, you just had to make sure that you didn't do at room. So a lot of detail and having to figure it out. And so I really think that was point helping with my time management and organizational skills. And then just being adaptable, because we had to learn to work with different types of people from all over the United States. And there were, you know, one of my friends she had never seen a black person or she had she's in Montana, she showed up and now she has a black man. Enter squad. And so this was like a great opportunity for her to realize that we are all the same because now we're both terrify. We don't know what's going to happen to us this summer. And even though we look different on the outside, we still have the same hopes and dreams of graduating of doing Wow. And we still have the same fears of not knowing what's gonna happen not wanting to pay Eldad. So we are at the core of what it means to have the same feelings and emotions and wishes and dreams. Yeah, so it was it was an It was an amazing experience it but it was also very, so it did stop.

Amanda Huffman  08:44

Yeah, yeah. So is there any like memories from your time at West Point that like stand out that you still think about or remember from your time there?

Benefsheh Verell  08:54

I think that and it's not any one specific memory but what stands out is just the camaraderie like from my classmates that then carried on to just after graduation. So I would go and even if they were my classmates, but I didn't know them. When we found out we were the same class or we had even been to the, you know, just been to West Point, there's that instant bond. Okay, you've been through the same thing that I've been through. And, you know, we have that instant connection and it transpires across years. And because what's the point is has those traditions where they do the Founders Day dinner, and you know, I'm in Japan, and we had a Founders Day dinner last year, and it was the first one I've been to in a long time, but it was just like, the instant connection with, they weren't my classmates. But there's their BOD, the laundry line that goes across decades and centuries and so and these people that I met during that first year, and even beyond, like, Are my closest friends, like closer than high school. And so that is really what I, what I've taken away, like, those are the memories and there's like snippets of events that were both good and not so good that you know that I do remember, but overall, it was just the team building the team bonding, and one on one connections, but also the group as a whole. That was really very special and that my husband who went to the University of Miami, you know, he doesn't have that. And so that was one that you know, we talked about that he's like, that's something that only like Academy grads have, when it comes to the military and the college experience.

Amanda Huffman  10:49

Yeah, did you guys have an experience that the rest of us thing go through and so and there's so many like commonalities that you can talk about that. Just like You know, like one ROTC student and another ROTC student have totally different experiences sometimes. But if you're at West Point, there's only one West Point. So it's like everybody has the same. And so it's Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Benefsheh Verell  11:15

Yeah. And it's kind of like bonding through misery. Then you can laugh about later. Military tends to do that quite well.

Amanda Huffman  11:26

That's a common thing. 

Benefsheh Verell  11:27


Amanda Huffman  11:29

So you were a military police officer. So I know that you guys pick your jobs. Is it your junior year? or senior year? Something like that? Yeah.

Benefsheh Verell  11:41

The branch night is senior year. So yeah, we put in for our top however many choices and then it it's based on how many slots are open that year, but also on your class rank. I was able to get military police which was my first choice, I believe. Yeah. So that workout 

Amanda Huffman  12:02

and what made you want to do Military Police? 

Benefsheh Verell  12:06

We had like an introduction to the different branches, but I really honestly wasn't aware what all the different opportunities there are in the military. And so I thought I wanted to do something as close to combat as possible. And that was military police for me. I made that decision. And so that was why it wasn't because I knew anything about the military believes or any of the other branches. Like I couldn't do aviation because my eyesight wasn't good enough. So that I was like, Well, I'm gonna do military. But no, I didn't really do any research.

Amanda Huffman  12:44

So what was your career like as being a military police officer? What did you do? Did you deploy?

Benefsheh Verell  12:52

Yeah, so I, my first assignment was Fort Hood, Texas and that was 1998 The time I got there, so we deployed to Bosnia that was still going on. We were in Bosnia for about six months. So and I was a platoon leader. And yeah, I mean, it was just like, the experience of leading a platoon of soldiers is amazing. And I'm so green, you know, we don't really know what the heck is going on, which is why they pair us with a senior NCO. And I learned so much from my platoon sergeant that when they either went on leave or like to go somewhere, and they were gone, and then I found out I actually had to do what they were doing. Oh my gosh, like that was insane. So by first maybe like three years is to meter and so we deployed to Bosnia, we went to this National Training Center. We did a lot of training. And then I went to the captain's career course. And then I'm commanded a garrison command at Fort Detrick, Maryland. So it would be with army security forces, and they provided security for site R, which is alternative communication site. So that's where I was when 9/11 happens. And it's interesting because we were actually at the Pentagon September 10, like doing work there. The next day, you know, all hell broke loose. And so our mission was to, you know, secure the alternate site. So, you know, we did that. But I, you know, we weren't a deployable unit. I was there for about two years, and then I was deputy pormarshal commercial at Fort Myer. And that's when I decided that I wanted to go to back to teach at West Point. And so I went to grad school, the University of Maryland and got a degree in physical geography, and also had my son while I was in grad school, and he was premature about 30 weeks. So yeah, he was in the nick you for six weeks. And that was obviously very stressful. So I had like two weeks off really before I had to start school and then I was in school and then going to the Nick new every day. And thankfully my parents live in the DC area. parents live in DC. So I had that support from family, but it was tough. It was really, really tough and then going to West Point, my husband, so we spent the first four and a half years of our marriage, because he's four years ahead of me. So it's a matchup like he had to go to Iowa. And I was in grad school. So he was he managed to get to Fort Drum, which is like six hours away from what I'm aware of that they paid. And so he would commute down on the weekend. But then he deployed for 50 Two months went to Iraq. And so this is like the genesis of my book. When I start my introduction for the military in my book, it was because during this time I was drowning. Like I was 18, I was pregnant with my daughter, son who's two, and by myself and I'm trying to teach class, but you know, my classes were like, I feel bad for any one of them was terrible. I was literally like, one question deep, like, if you asked, second or third question, I just simply wasn't prepared because I was like drowning and just trying to take care of myself. And so my boss at the time, like she realized that I was struggling and she's like you need you got to get a helper or an Au Pair or something. So I did get an au pair. And that was really very helpful. But it wasn't until about 2008 daughter was four years old. That's when I found out about this yoga retreat at omega in Rhinebeck, New York. And my mom came up to the Au Pair watched the kids. I went there. And I realized there that like I've had a choice about how I could summon didn't always have it all together I was I was angry that my point I was angry that everyone around me was so freakin happy. Like it was like I lived it was like Mayberry. All the husbands or spouses, they're all home, because no one's deploying and so like, they were all happy and I was like, miserable by myself. And I just carry that anger and projected it like this. Other people for being happy. But at that retreat, it was like the light bulb went off. Like, oh, I don't be angry, like Just because things are happening around me, I get to choose how I react. And so like that's started my mindful journey. 2008 like, I have a choice. So that was a little long. But, uh, yeah, so that was the beginning. And then we moved to Fort Belvoir, and that's part of my career. And I have them ironed out for the first time in years. And so I thought, me or again, and it wasn't because we had lived together before. And I've been using, like a taskmaster Master, like the house, or I was a young kid pair that I was having to tell her what to do. And then I would get work, what to do. And so my hope But I mean, we're realizing that, like, obviously, we, I believe that at the time, right, so and I didn't know how in and so I would, you know, I would order him around, or he would do less because I would allow him to. And then we just were fighting and unhappy, just insecure about our role. So status don't a lot of personal development to happen and it didn't start until I had. So I deployed and me 11 and that's when they will roll over his home. And he realized, and I did to that competent and do it, I wasn't there. And so our confidence in each other, increased in our communication. So I mean, he had gone counseling to help him deal with things that were that he was going through. And and I had gone to actually at while back in Maryland. So, yeah, so definitely counseling, individual counseling, couples counseling, just communicate. I know when I'm but I don't know. And accounting is not going to no one wanting to listen to that. You know, like, right setting is half the battle of communication and email that are going ahead, okay. And so just understanding like the act of active listening was huge. I didn't really understand that until I went to yoga teacher training in 2012 after I took 30 Day to go and do that for 30 days of leave. So that was when I started to really understand what it meant in the present. Like, here, not having my mind about something that I mean, the future or drumming up something from the past that I need to let go of my whole quality of life. And actually like listening to what people are saying before I would just be like, well, they're boring. And just stop, stop listening. It's just over. Then I would I would come back maybe a minute or two later, like, are they? No, no, so boring. And know that on a subconscious level, people can tell him and it's, it's definitely so from that 2008 all the way to 2012 and beyond like a lot of personal growth and self development. And I worked with life coaches to become more aware. And it's not easy thing.

Amanda Huffman  22:09

Yeah, and it does take a lot of time. I think sometimes people don't realize how much time it takes to, like, learn and like relearn how to do things. And just to be aware, and it's interesting that when you deployed, your husband had to take care of the kids because you weren't there. And then that gave you confidence in him and confidence in himself. And so it's kind of interesting that the deployment was actually kind of a good thing in some ways, because it was able to help both of you.

Benefsheh Verell  22:43

It was right, it was definitely important. And for me, I could let go of the reigns, which I've been holding on to so tightly, trying to control everything. And that's not possible. And it's exhausting. And I'm putting extra pressure on myself to try to control things that aren't in my control. And I wasn't controlling the one thing that I can control, which is my own behavior, and my reaction to what's happening around me. So I was able to, well, I was forced to just let go.

Amanda Huffman  23:20

And now word from our sponsor. 

Are you thinking of planning a road trip this summer, Christopher Travel is excited to offer a 50% discount to the Women of the Military Podcast followers on all its semi-custom and custom road trip itineraries, or opt for the basic pre planned itinerary for just $5. Each itinerary includes the high level of detail for which Christopher Travel is known. These itineraries immerse you in the fun, quirky and quintessential experiences of the great American road trip. Wherever the road leads, you can just relax and enjoy the adventure because Christopher Travel has done all the planning for you visit them on the web to learn More go to https://christopher.travel/womenofthemilitarypodcast/

And now let's get back to the show. 

And I think you also touched on like one of the really hard parts of being dual military, like sometimes you can't be stationed together and it's not easy or like if you're stationed together, but six hours apart, that's really hard to like, come back together. Like even my husband travels a lot for his job right now. And he'll be gone for like a week or two. And even just in that week or two, like I'm able to, like, pick up all the slack to make it work. And then he comes back and I'm like, Oh, yeah, you're here now. And it's only been a week or two. And so then when you say like four and a half years of not having that would just make it even harder to integrate together. It was hard.

Benefsheh Verell  24:50

Yeah. And we weren't prepared simply because we didn't know what it was going to be like. So yeah, I mean, it's a journey. I mean, marriage is a journey. And so there's no hills and valleys and communication is what keeps you going, like, just really listening to each other. But it also like, knowing what I want, and being able to communicate my own needs. Like I didn't even really know how to do that. Because I didn't know what I wanted or needed. I've never asked myself, I'd never taken the time to really connect with me. And so like meditation and yoga allow me to do that. Because before I would just sort of be operating under assumptions of what other people think I should be doing. And so that's what I thought I should be doing, whether it's parents or like bosses, or friends, or society. You know what, like the media, it wasn't really true to me because I'd never connected with

Amanda Huffman  25:53

Yeah, so that was 2012 right when you went to the yoga retreat, So you were in the military for about five more years after that?

Benefsheh Verell  26:05

Well, 2012 was when I went to the yoga teacher training. And so then yeah, I retired in 2017. Yes, yeah. So were you guys able to get stationed together for the rest of your time when you were on active duty? We were thankfully it did work out. So for Beauvoir, from there, we went to Korea. And then we were we were supposed to be a career for like two years and my husband was activated off the ultimate list to command a battalion. And so after six months, we had to move and it was funny because the branch was like, No, she hasn't done her year you know, and to me, like it felt like it's like an act of Congress for them to move me to they were literally just gonna move my husband and leave me in Korea. We're like, This is crazy. So that was a challenge is trying to get I commitment. We sound like I'm not Trying to get out of the army. Anyway, so we moved to Shaw Air Force Base with army Central Command there. And from there we went to UConn an airbase in Japan. And that's where I retired out of.

Amanda Huffman  27:13

Okay. And that's where you are at out right now?

Benefsheh Verell  27:16

Well, we actually went to Carlisle barracks for a year for the War College and then moved back to Japan. So now we Camp Zama Japan, and my husband commanding the Japan engineer district for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Amanda Huffman  27:30

So what was it like to leave the military and become a military spouse? 

Benefsheh Verell  27:38

Yeah. So I wasn't prepared for that at all. So I was ready to retire because I was just not having as much fun in the military anymore. And so I was very, very happy to do that. But I had thought you know, I wanted I do want to be a stay at home mom. Like I wanted to spend time with the kids but When I went to the transitional program tab, it was like that wasn't one of the options like to get paperwork signed off on, I had to either do resumes and apply for jobs or apply for school or do business. And so that actually tugged at my insecurity which was underlying there that I can't just do nothing like I can't just get out. And yes, I was like, I have to be earning some money. I have to be contributing financially somehow, like, I'm going to start a business so I went like balls to the walls and trying to start this travel business like, and I found these amazing people like they were exactly what I needed for like life coaching, but not I eventually stopped the travel business because I wasn't passionate about travel, but I thought that I would earn this money and then use it to bring mindfulness to the military. So I spun around for like a Trying to do this. And then when I finally realized that this was it, I wasn't like a spouse, right? Because I'm like, Oh, I'm starting a business. And then I mean, I still when I finally stopped that, now I'm like, Well, now what? You know, and that's where it was like, Oh, the book, right? So the book was gonna be a book on mindful travel. And I hired a coach to help me like, structure the book, not write it, but structure it. And then she had me do a meditation. And I realized, you know, a meditation about what my book was gonna look like visioning my book, finished it. So I realized that wasn't going to be about travel at all. I was gonna be about my journey, because I was passionate about bringing mindfulness practices to the military. But through all of that, like I did not like the fact that I would, people didn't know who I was, like I had it. Not having a uniform on. There's not that instant recognition that I'm serving. And so I'm just like a regular person. Now I know you know what clothes to wear, because I'm uncomfortable with clothes. Like I've always worn this androgynous uniform that hides the body. And now I'm wearing it. And it's like a dress or you know, like, uncomfortable. And I was kind of in a funk. not really knowing what was wrong until like, I'd watched, like, all seven, whatever Sons of Anarchy, like I don't know, like high peaks, like just binge watching. depressing, depressing. You know, it just, it wasn't until I went to go for a walk, and I put on hiking boots, and I stood up. After tying the boots. I felt stronger tower. were confident I felt powerful. It was like oh, boost. It just like hit me. It was like I've missed a booth. You For like, that's what's going on here. did not realize I put so much of my identity into army, like realized until it was. I mean even and it took a while even then. And so I was like, Oh, I have to find like I have to understand what the army represented. And now I have to find something else internally to fill this because this you know, bucket army bucket is gone. need another? And yeah,

Amanda Huffman  31:34

I think that that's really a good way to put it, especially like when you put the boots on and then you like felt taller and you're like, because I feel like a lot of veterans walk around loss because that bucket is empty, and it used to be full. And then they're like, What do I do? And like you said, Nobody really tells you they're like do a resume, start a business do this do that. They don't really tell you that to figure out who you want to be.

Benefsheh Verell  32:04

Right, who am I? Now the military isn't here. I mean, I it's here, but it's not serving, like in the military. I mean, I'm a Soldier for Life. And I'm active in the military, but I'm not active duty. And that's not the same. You know, I have the blue car, but I had the pink one. And, you know, I don't so and I had to get over. Like, there's nothing wrong with houses, like that's insidious. I don't know where it comes from. But from the time I was a lieutenant, there was this culture that offices are less than, and it's nonsense, and I don't know where it comes from. But it bothers me because houses are, in some ways, like what's keeping the military together because we're the ones that are keeping The house together which is hard to do while the service member is gone, and they keep the community together and strong. And I didn't realize this, really until I needed to rely on others to keep me together when I was at West Point, and they were the ones that came in all the people that I was angry at for being so happy. They came in and like brought me meals after I had my baby and were just like, you know, willing to take a child but wasn't feeling well and couldn't go to the CDC and just popping in to me, like, are you okay? And that was when I started to have that mindset change. I was like, Oh, it's not an ask them like spouses and females in the military, that it's we're on the same team. You know, raising children that are going to be productive members of society and, you know, keeping our homes happy and healthy. Be like, We're on the same team. And so I didn't. Once I realized that, then I was like, Okay, I can stop, like doing this. have that mentality. But then it came back again when now I was out and I'm like, No, no, I was still there. And I was still there. And I, well, I had to come to terms with it. And I was still judging.

Amanda Huffman  34:23

Yeah, I really struggle sometimes because I have that like inner conflict. And I have to like figure out like, what's bothering me because it isn't like an us them thing. But sometimes, I would get frustrated at different like, when military spouses and veterans get lumped together, I would always get really upset. And not because I thought like military spouses didn't deserve to be recognized just because I felt like people would always assume I was a military spouse and not a veteran. And so I had to like, realize that my anger shouldn't be directed at military spouses because actually, I talked to military spouses. about it, and they felt uncomfortable because they weren't veterans, and they were. So it was kind of interesting that like, I had to, like, wrestle with, like, how I felt and not have it being us them, but to like, bridge the gap together so that that we could grow and like, learn from each other. And yeah, because you're right military spouses have to do so much like so much sacrifice, and so much holding the house together and all the things and I don't think the military in general is as grateful. I know that there's a lot of stuff going on in Washington right now for military spouses, but I feel like they're finally like realizing, like, Hey, we couldn't function without these men and women who, you know, stay home and take care of the families.

Benefsheh Verell  35:50

Yeah, I mean, they, these are strong people. And to be able, it's almost easier for the service member. Sometimes times to deploy because they're like, I don't have to worry about any of that at home, it's being taken care of, and they focus entirely on the job we have to do. And, you know, we can go to the gym and keep ourselves fit and we've got food being made for us. And, you know, I mean, I didn't I wasn't out like patrolling. I didn't have to do any of that, like, really dangerous. So I can't comment on that part of the deployment. But I do know that for me, I was like free did not have to worry about these little Munchkins constantly needed attention. I only had to take care of myself. And it was liberating. Yeah,

Amanda Huffman  36:43

yeah. And I think the other thing is like military spouses can be really alone and how they feel and when I was deployed, I was deployed with a bunch of people who are going through the exact same thing that I was in, like you said, when you were at West Point, and all these friends military spouses were there and their husbands were home and you were like the only one. And I think that part is really challenging to be the only one and to not have that support group that you get when you deploy because you're deployed with other people. And they're all going through the same thing.

Benefsheh Verell  37:16

Yeah, you're right. And I was afraid to reach out and ask for help, because that meant that I wasn't good enough. I wasn't strong. I couldn't do it on my own. And so I didn't I mean, like, God had to bring me to my knees. You know, until I reached out, because I could not do it. And otherwise I would look at it. Like, you know, my parents read this book, and they were like, you didn't tell us that? We had no idea. Like, they're trying not to cry. And like, I'm sorry, I thought, you know, like, like you were going through this all by yourself. Oh, yeah. And that's been the hardest. That was one of the hardest things was learning. I mean, because it That vulnerability. A lot of times, it's really scary to do, because you have to show that and let other people in and they know that you can't do it all on your own. And sometimes you just don't want to do.

Amanda Huffman  38:15

Yeah, asking for help is really hard. What I try and do when I like am in a place where I need help is I think of like how I would respond if someone came to me and needed help. And then I'm like, Well, of course, I would say yes. So why am I like beating myself up? I would give them a lot more grace and bend over backwards to help them instead of like, maybe like, I can do it. I can do it all I'm making my life harder than it needs to be.

Benefsheh Verell  38:43

And that's so true because we're toughest critic, right? And I had a boss and he was like, by not asking, you're taking away my opportunity to say yes or no. There's nothing for me. You're choosing no for me. And it's like, Who's to say that They're gonna say no. Or they will they could say no and direct you towards somebody else you might say yes, I mean, or they could say yes, I mean, but you'll never know. You don't ask and it was just getting over there.

Amanda Huffman  39:10

Yeah, but it's really hard. So was there any part of your military story that we haven't had a chance to talk about yet? 

Benefsheh Verell  39:19

I think that we, yeah, we have, I mean, the transition, you know, like you had gone through the four stages of grief. And so the healing part is important, like all of them are important, but just like getting to the other side, and starting healing is where I'm at now. And now that I'm in that space, I can help others. And that's what I've been moving towards doing. I recently did a workshop with new US Army Corps of Engineers, Pacific division in San Francisco. And so it was a workshop on my book and I taught them some breathing exercises and meditation Some yoga exercises they can do on their own. And then we didn't have a discussion about my book and just like sharing my story, I didn't realize how much that was actually going to help them. I got such positive feedback from across the different areas from like the people that have young kids are dealing with that aspect of it. So the people that are looking towards retirement and are like, having anxiety about transitioning out. So it was one of the best experiences I've had, and it was so grateful to be able to go and do that.

Amanda Huffman  40:34

Yeah. And yeah, you're talking about I did Episode 47, which is about mourning the loss of my military service. And I went through how I went through the four stages of grief. And the final stage is healing and like giving back and I think that I mean, the podcast, that's what podcast is for me. And so yeah, so

Benefsheh Verell  40:58

yeah, you're doing So

Amanda Huffman  41:00

my last question is, what would you tell girls considering joining the military?

Benefsheh Verell  41:07

You're not alone, you don't have to do it alone. In fact, you're never alone. There's always somebody who is either going through a similar experience or has gone through a similar experience. And so really to seek out and find those people, I didn't do that I didn't find mentors, I just sort of made the assumption that all of the women that had gone before me were overly masculine, or just like, too girly. And so I just didn't take the time to really reach out. And so I think that is so important, like finding people that you can talk to, so that when you have those tough times, you know that you're not alone, that they can share a similar experience and give you some guidance. And also, you know, it makes it easier to ask for help. If you have someone mentor, it's so important for women. And they can be men too. And they don't necessarily have to, like, if you're an officer, the mentor doesn't have to be an officer could also be an NCO. And it could be someone that's not even in the military, but in a different space. But just someone that you trust that you can go to, so that you're not alone, because it's going to get like there's no doubt about it, like life is going to throw you something that you're not going to be prepared for. And that's when you have to rely on those people that you've chosen and selected to help you through.

Amanda Huffman  42:34

Yeah, and mentorship has been one of the most rewarding things that I've gotten to do in the past few years, just talking to women who are either looking to join the military or are looking and considering getting out of the military. And so if you're looking to join the military and you are looking for a mentor, I know that I can find a female veteran who would be willing to talk to you because all I have to do is put it off LinkedIn, and then I get all these requests from women who want to connect with young women. So yeah, I think that's a great way for veterans to give back to the military community if we can partner up with young women who are either looking to serve or are currently serving and just need a mentor. Absolutely. I agree. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really enjoy getting to hear a little bit about what West Point was like in your time in the military. And I'm excited to learn more about mindfulness and meditation. My mom has surely been telling me how much I need to do it and I think keeps popping up everywhere. So I'm really glad we got to connect.

Benefsheh Verell  43:44

Yeah, definitely. And you know, meditation, it doesn't have to be serious like it really doesn't like it could just be two minutes of deep breathing. And that is enough to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the body down. You know, people that are just Starting, I'd like you don't have to sit cross legged for 20 minutes. Like, that's not that wouldn't even be possible for me. Like, it wouldn't have been like somebody that I'm like, okay, I can do two minutes. And then yeah, just like two minutes of breathing and know that your mind is gonna wander like, that's normal, the mind is alive and we are alive and it's gonna go, it's like a puppy. So totally distracted. And when you notice it, you know, you just bring your attention back to the breath. And that's the training of the mind bringing it back again. It's never ending. Yeah. 

Amanda Huffman  44:38

Well, thank you so much. 

Benefsheh Verell  44:40

No, thank you.

Amanda Huffman  44:43

Thank you for listening to this episode of women of the military. Make sure to subscribe so you don't miss any of the amazing stories I have with women who have served in our military. Did you love the show? Don't forget to leave a review. Finally, if you are a woman who has served is currently serving in the military. Please email me at airman to mom@gmail.com so I can set you up to be on a future episode of women of the military.