Guest speaker Kristen Christy gave a powerful speech offering insight into the trials she has faced in her life during a visit to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Oct. 31 – Nov. 1, 2019. Christy is no stranger to allowing people an up-close view of her life story, containing many high points and low points. Nine days before her 16th birthday, Christy suffered a massive stroke which left her with partial paralysis on the right side of her body. It might be easy for a person to give up and resign themselves to a depressive state, but she would not accept that. After her family and friends found someone to perform her surgery, she was finally able to take back a portion of her life, but she would never fully regain the physical abilities she had before her stroke. “I had to find new avenues for my talents but guess what, I didn’t do that alone,” said Christy. “My friends helped me remove those blinders of depression and woe.” Christy was able to overcome adversity early in her life and get a scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin, where she eventually met her husband. Years later, with her family growing by two sons and her husband an officer in the U.S. Air Force, her mental resolve would yet again be tested. Her husband had just finished a deployment to Baghdad, and Christy knew that he was not the same when he returned. Months had gone on with fluctuations in their family dynamic until one day Christy answered the door and two officers and a coroner greeted her. Her husband had taken his own life. In 2015 one of her sons disappeared and she has not seen him since. Her other son attempted suicide when he was just 20 years old; thankfully he was unsuccessful. Going through all of this was overwhelming and at times debilitating, but Christy maintained her resiliency. She now strives to help those who hear her message see that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. “A kind word and a smile go so far that we don’t even know the impacts,” Christy said. “I challenge you to help those people who have to hear the answer no, and help them find new avenues for their talents.” Christy makes it her mission to not only uplift others with her story, but to allow people to grieve and know that others are here to grieve with them. “We can learn from our mistakes and from our failures, it’s okay to fail,” Christy said. “Learn from those mistakes and help others learn from your failings and understand that failure is not a bad word.” Our hardships may shape who we are but they do not define us according to Christy. There are always lessons to be learned and choices to be made. As long as you can learn from the hardships of your life, you will never truly fail.