Each month, VA’s Center for Women Veterans profiles a different woman Veteran author as part of its Women Veteran Authors Book Corner. This month’s author is Army Veteran Jessica Pekari, who served from 2006-2010.
Pekari wrote “Bombs to Trails: Interweaving Heritage, Life, and PTSD on the Pacific Crest Trail.” To set the fastest known time record on the Pacific Crest Trail, Pekari set off on an adventure to hike from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. As a Veteran, she finders herself battling with flashbacks from her days as a medic in the U.S. Army as she discovers more about herself and her Blackfeet and Mexican heritage.
CWV’s interview with Pekari
What are you doing now?
I currently work as an elementary school physical education teacher.
Where and when did you serve?
U.S. Army 2006-2010 as a Health Care Specialist (Medic). During my time, I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
What was your proudest service memory?
My fondest memory is earning both my Parachute and Air Assault Badge as a private first class.
What was your inspiration for becoming an author?
My inspiration stemmed from my own struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. With the help and support of my husband, he suggested I write about my journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. My hope is that it will help others who struggle with PTSD. In addition, to help others understand more about those who do struggle.
How has your military experience shaped your creativity or how you express yourself?
I used to hold a lot of my emotions in. With the help of the trail and writing, I have found a positive outlet for letting my creativity out.
What advice would you give other women Veterans who may be considering becoming an author?
The worst anyone can say is no. However, I have found that most people will offer some advice in helping get your work published. Don’t give up!
How can women Veteran authors shape society’s understanding of women Veterans’ military experience and their contributions?
I feel that society often thinks of men as being on the front lines. I believe it is up to us women to show them that we have also been there. Women have suffered a lot of similar mental and physical battles. Through writing, we can help reshape people’s opinions.
What were some of your obstacles and challenges in writing this book?
Figuring out how to get my book published as well as how to market what I have written has been the most challenging.
What are your recommendations for illustrating, book cover selection, and the publishing process?
Some authors will seek out publishing companies. After speaking with a few authors, most suggested self-publishing. I did a lot of research and found Amazon to be the most beneficial. They also provide marketing campaigns if needed. Since my book is a memoir, I used my own photos I took on the trail.
What is one significant thing we should know about you?
I have been married for 13 years and have three beautiful children, ages 9,10, and 11.
How has writing this book helped you?
Writing has been a positive outlet and a great source of therapy for me. It has allowed me to put my thoughts on paper and take my time processing past traumatic events.
What is your favorite quote?
“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”
If you could choose one woman from any point in time to share a meal with, who would she be?
I would choose two. Both of my grandmothers. I was never given the opportunity to meet my mother’s mom or spend quality time with my father’s. To sit down and have a conversation with them would mean the world to me.
Are you a woman Veteran author, or do you know of one?
If so, please visit our website to find out more information. If you have further questions, contact the CWV Outreach Program Manager Michelle Terry at Michelle.Terry2@VA.gov.