In 2010 Oprah Winfrey met Alicia Watkins, a retired Air Force staff sergeant who was living out of her car. After spending 10 years in the Air Force, Watkins was left with very little money and tons of health issues. Watkins told Winfrey she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and brain and spinal injuries.
Watkins allowed Winfrey to document her life so that people could be aware of the circumstances some veterans are faced with after leaving the military. Even though Watkins was homeless, she kept the information from her family and friends and even gave up a place to stay to another homeless woman with three kids.
“It might have been different had I not seen the children and the babies. So I decided to be on the street and put them in the room,” Watkins told Oprah. “Why wouldn’t I?”
Five years later, things have substantially changed for Watkins. Watkins submitted a video to Oprah: Where Are They Now? Although she’s still dealing with health issues related to her military career, she’s no longer homeless and is attending Harvard University.
“I wanted to be able to care for wounded warriors, and so I decided to apply to Harvard University,” she says. “In 2012 I was accepted. My college expenses are paid by the GI Bill.”
Although Watkins is a student, she also realizes that the injuries she’s suffered will make her road to independence a long process.
“I have traumatic brain injury, I have post-traumatic stress disorder, I have a spinal cord injury,” she says. “It’s a hard road. I would love to be able to work today. I have offers, I have people that are willing to help me, but they all have to take a backseat to my health. As much as I want to work, I have to acknowledge that I am a casualty of war.”
Oprah: Where Are They Now? airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern time on OWN.