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Delphine Metcalf-Foster


In 1990, U.S. Army First Sergeant Delphine Metcalf-Foster deployed to Saudi Arabia with a grave registration company in support of Desert Storm/Desert Shield. Their mission was to send the remains of fallen U.S. troops back to America for repatriation.

“When we first got over to Saudi Arabia, we had no blankets for the first two weeks so we had to sleep in body bags,” recalled Metcalf-Foster. “There were many times where we would wonder if we would have to go home in this blue, red or green body bag. It was very devastating, to say the least.”

Upon returning home, Metcalf-Foster said she was focused on her young troops, and didn’t really think about herself or how the experience had affected her. She was suffering from invisible wounds that prevented her from living her life how she wanted.

She sought mental health care from her local VA in San Francisco, but was added to a mental health group of all males.

“That did not work, because a lot of their issues were not my issues,” she said.

So, VA found her a woman veteran mental health group to try. The problem there, she said, was the group was aimed at military sexual trauma (MST) survivors, and she didn’t fit there, either.

“I didn’t have MST, but I was in combat, I saw the worst of the wars,” Metcalf-Foster said. “I got together with the director at the San Francisco VA and decided to get together groups for women who were in combat to help with our specific issues and it really helped. To this day, I still go for treatment.”

Metcalf-Foster—who was elected as the first woman veteran national commander of DAV in 2017—said serving other veterans has helped her heal.

“Whether it was on women’s issues, access for women, or just in general helping veterans, being able to give back helped me overcome a lot, especially when I think about what I went through when I first came home,” she added.