By Martie Thompson
Kristina Rice said, “I like to help people,” and indeed she has devoted her life to helping others — with a particular affinity for helping veterans. Currently she is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with the Wounded Warrior Project, where she spends her time helping veterans who have mental health crises. Previously, she worked on providing emergency financial assistance for veterans with the Wounded Warrior Project and served on the DAT (Disaster Assistance Team) for the American Red Cross, where she was responsible for providing immediate necessities after a disaster and then connected people to other needed services.
Rice was born on an Army base in Germany as both of her parents were on active duty. When the family returned to the States, they came to her mother’s hometown of Jacksonville and Rice attended local schools like Mandarin Middle School and Mandarin High School. It was while living in Riverside and working for a restaurant that she met her husband, Andrew. He ultimately joined the Air Force and she went back overseas for more of the military lifestyle. They lived in Guam, where she had a daughter, Lorelei, and England before moving back to Mandarin four years ago.
Q: How did you become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?
A: While we lived in England, I earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees (in sociology and social work, respectively) at an American university that catered to service members. My husband got out of the service so I could pursue my LCSW. I moved with my daughter back to Jacksonville and had an interview with Wounded Warrior Project three days later. I started the job and bought our house in Mandarin all before he joined us from England. You must have supervisor hours as part of the LCSW process and usually have to pay per hour for another LCSW to supervise you. Local LCSW Beth Shorstein gave her time pro bono to me for the required weekly sessions for two years so I could continue working at Wounded Warrior Project. I can never thank her enough. I received my LCSW in October 2019.
Q: What do you like best about working at Wounded Warrior Project?
A: Definitely being able to work with the veterans. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking, but we have some great success stories. There is nothing better than knowing that you’ve helped someone reach their full potential.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: We love to be outdoors. We have a beagle and a basset hound and we do a lot of hiking, something we also loved doing in England. We were in the forest there every weekend. We also love the beach and paddleboarding and kayaking. Plus, I run three times a week with my mom, who is my best friend. I also volunteer with Free Flow, an organization that provides showers for the homeless. I think it is important to give back.
Q: Where was your favorite place to live overseas?
A: England. We loved the culture and the slower pace. We lived in a very small village with no stoplights. We would walk to the market to get our groceries. There were castles and ruins to explore … so many wonderful things to do outdoors and there is so much history.
Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?
A: I have an adventurous spirit. I participated in roller derby when we lived in Guam and England and I went skydiving recently with my mom. When I’m not working, I’m making sure to have fun.
Photo courtesy Kristina Rice