Kansas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Hash never applied to be on a reality TV show, but cameras from PBS.org’s “Veterans Coming Home” digital series found her.
Hash, who lives just south of Smithville, said producers landed on her as a subject through her roller derby league when they called looking for veterans. Hash doesn’t live on base or attend daily formation in her work as a recruiter, but her experience of returning home from a 2008 peacekeeping deployment to Kosovo still fit the parameters of the project.
The “Veterans Coming Home” online series was spearheaded by Wisconsin Public Television and co-produced by 13 local public media stations nationwide, including Kansas City’s KCPT. The project’s goal is to help veterans and viewers understand the opportunities and challenges faced during the transition to civilian life.
“Veterans Coming Home” is on PBS’ Stories of Service website. New episodes post Wednesdays and Saturdays through July 4.
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Hash’s story, “Finding Your Tribe,” is the first of the 4-to-6-minute episodes to post; there will be 10 in all. (Episodes will be made available to show on public TV stations, and in the fall “Veterans Coming Home” will be carried by World Channel, a digital subchannel of many PBS stations but not one carried by Kansas City’s KCPT.)
Hash, 32, said she liked the purpose of the “Veterans Coming Home” series.
“The hardest part of coming home from being a soldier is the transition from soldier to civilian,” she said. “They’re talking about a piece that’s near and dear to my heart because finding your community, your niche — they say ‘your tribe’ — when you get home is really important. That’s what helps veterans thrive when they come out of active duty or any type of service.”
Hash said when she deployed for a little less than a year her first child was 3. Coming home required a readjustment not only to everyday living but also to being a mom.
“On deployment you’ve been taken care of — your meals are provided, your laundry service is provided, you know what’s expected of you,” she said. “You have to figure everything out again when you’re coming back. Being a full-time mom was hard because your patience levels change when you haven’t been around your kids and they change while you’re gone. …
“When you come home, you realize everything you left moved forward without you. All these things have changed and how do you fit into that now?”
Hash was always involved in sports growing up, and she looked for athletic opportunities after she returned home. She couldn’t find a volleyball team so landed on roller derby instead. She’s currently a coach for the Dreadnought Dorothys of the Kansas City Roller Warriors.
Whitney Dow, story director for “Veterans Coming Home,” said Hash was an ideal subject for the series.
“She really explodes some myths about who makes up the military as she straddles two worlds as a member of the National Guard who still lives a big chunk of her life as a civilian,” Dow said. “It is amazing to spend time with her and see her transform from a pressed and polished recruiter selling potential enlistees on the benefits of a career in the military to a tatted-up captain of a roller derby team strategizing how to inflict pain and havoc on the opposing players.”
Hash said in roller derby she found the outlet she needed post-deployment as well as an activity where she could put to use some of the leadership skills she learned in the military.
“It’s very similar to the military because the women that play are from all different walks of life — doctor, attorney, architect, server, librarian — and in the military you get people from all over the country,” Hash said. “It’s neat to be involved with people who you can learn from and they’re also open-minded enough to allow you to teach them a thing or two as well.”
Freelance writer Rob Owen can be reached at RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV.
▪ Episodes of “Veterans Coming Home” can be viewed at pbs.org.
Where to watch
Episodes of “Veterans Coming Home” can be viewed at pbs.org.