Olivia Nunn knew from a young age that she would one day join the Army. Her father had been a combat engineer and she planned to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Though low test scores in math prevented her admission, Nunn’s parents supported her decision to join the military. They insisted that she receive an education and become an officer, so she enrolled at Radford University in Virginia and joined the school’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.

After college, Nunn wanted to become an armor officer on a tank crew, but in the Army in 2001, women weren’t allowed to fill combat roles. Instead, she spent a decade as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Officer in the Chemical Corps and served multiple tours in Iraq before moving into public affairs. In Public Affairs, she helped produce the Army’s Soldier for Life podcast and eventually hosted the program.

Olivia Nunn in uniform

Puyallup, Wash. native, Capt. Olivia Nunn, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division speaks to the female Soldiers attending the first Army Female Development Program about respect and professionalism on Fort Hood, Texas. Photo by Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

“It looks easy, it looks glamorous,” Nunn said of podcasting. “But the truth is there’s a lot of work that goes into it.”

Nunn served a total of 20 years in the Army and recently retired. Afterward, she became a communications consultant and a beauty queen.

“Your identity is wrapped up in your uniform,” Nunn said, “whether you do it for two years or 20 years.”

While she was still on active duty, Nunn suffered a mental health crisis and contemplated suicide. In this episode of Borne the Battle, she opens up about her experience and talks about how she found the help she needed, the challenges of transitioning from soldier to civilian, and the need for better mental health resources for military personnel.

“The strongest tend to be the ones that hide the pain,” she said.


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By Stephen Hill is a writing intern with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He is a graduate student at West Virginia University studying Professional Writing and Editing.

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Published on May. 16, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.2 min.

Views to date: 788

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