For Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Hash, the hardest part of coming home from deployment with the National Guard was “learning how to be an adult again.”
“When you’re gone, your whole world kind of stops,” she says, “but everything back home keeps moving forward and you feel like it’s left you behind.”
The 32-year-old Kansas Citian’s transition is the focus of the first episode of a new PBS digital series, “Veterans Coming Home.” The 10-part series, which debuts Wednesday, focuses on a variety of topics related to veterans returning home after deployment.
Hash’s episode, “Finding Your Tribe,” delves into recruiting, relationships and her favorite sport, roller derby.
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Hash worked in logistics with the Missouri National Guard on a yearlong peace-keeping mission in Kosovo in 2008. As soon as she came home, she searched the Internet for “team sports.”
Hash found her tribe in the Kansas City Roller Warriors, a roller derby team.
“I’ve been roller-skating since I could walk. So, why not play a sport where you can skate and hit people?” she says.
“I immediately fell in love with it and I knew I’d found what I was looking for.”
Her team is the Dreadnought Dorothys; her nickname is Road Hash.
Hash joined the National Guard in 2000 and has been a member in Arizona and Missouri. She currently recruits for the Kansas National Guard.
She calls herself “Mama Bear” in the episode and her recruits, regardless of age, her “kids.”
“I get to help shape the future of our military and watch kids transform from high school to college kids who will be the leaders of our organization,” Hash says.
She makes sure that she’s present when each one swears in.
“It’s something that it fulfills in me that I can’t find anywhere else,” she says in the episode about recruiting.
Hash and her husband have two children and one on the way (she’s due in November). She has a very large extended family, too. She says that when you add military “family” and roller derby “family,” it’s hard to go anywhere without knowing someone.
Still, she admits to feeling isolated and depressed after coming home from deployment.
Hash hopes that the series will shine a light on the issue.
The “military-to-civilian-world transition is challenging,” she says. “If you don’t find people ‘from your planet’ so to speak, it’s easy to fall into depression.”
“It was very important to me to get the word out about how important it is to find your place,” she says. “I want to let veterans know that there are communities out there for them to fill that void once you’re out — once you’re home.”
Watch “Veterans Coming Home”
New episodes of “Veterans Coming Home,” a PBS digital series, will be released on Wednesdays and Saturdays through the Fourth of July at veteranscominghome.org as part of “Stories of Service” from PBS.