Overcoming adversity: M-S grad Meredith Mathis details experiences in Afghanistan

When Meredith Mathis was a junior at Mahomet-Seymour High School, she had no idea what she wanted to do. Now, the retired Army officer is hours away from releasing her first published book.

"I felt like I had no talent or skills, but I discovered the Army and went into the ROTC at college, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made," Mathis said.

"The Mountain Still Stands: A Young Soldier's Battle for Peace in a Time of War" digs deep into the struggles Mathis experienced in the midst of two combat deployments in Afghanistan (2009 through 2010 and 10 months in 2012) over her eight years of service to her country.

"It's about the struggles I went through and some of the really hard times I've also had with a chronic illness (vertigo), which is what forced me into retirement," Mathis said.

"I struggled with finding my identity and having patience, even when the healing doesn't come," she added. "It's underscored by my faith in God that takes center stage and really what's allowed me to recover some of the hardest things I've ever been through in my life."

The 2004 Mahomet-Seymour grad who now lives in Lacey, Wash., knew she wanted to write the book five years ago.

"My best friend's mom started her own publishing company (Creative Horse Press) a few years ago," she said. "It was the perfect timing, since I retired in 2016 and I was having a hard time trying to find a job so I decided to write a book."

But Mathis had no clue she had a knack for writing until she started a daily photo blog in 2011 in an attempt to expand her photography skills.

"My blog turned into a place to write and share my heart, but it was just friends and family reading it, and people started saying, 'Have you thought about writing a book?'" she said. "I had a few unique experiences in the Army and once I got out of the Army I had time to reflect on everything I'd been through, and it seemed like a good time to put it down in writing."

The book's title is a metaphor of Mathis' faith in God. The idea came to her while she drove past Mount Rainier in the midst of dealing with a range of emotions in spite of her chronic illness.

"On sunny days, we say 'the mountain is out' and on cloudy days we say 'you can't see it,'" she said. "I was crying and driving past a place where you can usually see Mount Rainier and I couldn't see it because it was cloudy," she added.

"I was praying, 'God where are you in my suffering? I'm sick and I'm not getting better,'" Mathis said. "I felt kind of an overwhelming sense that God was like that mountain, and even though I couldn't see it, it was a landmark in my life and just like that God was still standing like that mountain."

Mathis' book releases Saturday. She found the writing process incredibly "intimidating" with having to be so vulnerable on each page.

"Sharing a lot of those intimate details with friends and family ... there's some things I struggled with that I hadn't talked about with them before," she said.

Regardless, Mathis powered through with an "overwhelming" sense that her work would help others struggling.

"I'm not just putting myself out there for the sake of being vulnerable," she said. "It's showing others that they're not alone in their struggles and that they can find freedom, too."

The veteran also details the struggles she faced as a junior at Mahomet-Seymour. Mathis was unsure of what she wanted to do past the halls of high school.

"It didn't seem practical for me to go into the Army," she said. "I wasn't the kind of person to have done that," she added. "I was always pretty quiet and shy. I just felt a strong pull toward it."

With mere hours before the veteran's book release, Mathis couldn't help but feel inspired to share a bit of advice for those sitting in the very classrooms where she once studied.

"I know it sounds cliche, but sometimes you have to follow your heart," she said. "Give yourself some grace. You can figure it out along the way."

Mathis encourages interested readers to visit her website (meredithmathis.com) for more information about her book.

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