ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – Back in December, we asked you to nominate the women who make a difference across the Big Country. Our first nominee spotlight is Army Veteran, Teresa Clickener of Abilene.

KTAB met with Clickener to learn her story. The 26-year Veteran took us on a tour of photos and a journal from her time spent in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army.

“As I look at this picture, I’m thinking to this time and realizing how important my job is, but also how dangerous it was,” Clickener reminisced. “On March 6th, my birthday, we had a suicide bombing at one of the gates.”

As an Army nurse, Clickener said her job was to provide aid to our deployed troops, but she was never able to ignore her heart for caring. She would also help Afghan civilians and prisoners of war (POWs), and for good reason.

“As far as providing care to the Afghan people, it was a no brainer because they protected me,” explained Clickener.

In 2009, Clickener made her way back home to her family in Abilene. Some years later, she would retire from the military, and graduate from Texas Tech University – earning her nursing degree. That degree would lead to her second career in healthcare.

With all these important and life-altering actions Clickener’s made, it was one event in 2021 that would change her life as she knew it.

“When we found out that Bagram fell, it was very, very traumatic for everybody across the board, especially those that served over there,” Clickener recalled.

In August of 2021, Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan fell when two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds flocking to Kabul’s airport. Afghan and U.S. officials said the attacks killed at least 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops.

When Bagram fell, Clickener told KTAB she was on a nursing contract assignment in Washington, and because of how the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan played out, it left her and many others in a state of mind similar to Veterans of the Vietnam War.

“It was a shock for all of us that served,” revealed Clickener. “We struggled with what was our mission there, and what did we accomplish there.”

As Clickener had to process her own grief, she would attempt to turn the page, and rally for Afghan refugees.

“Of course, none of us knew where any of them were going, but I knew from my own personal journey – and to heal like so many of us Veterans to heal – we needed to be there for them like they were for us,” Clickener said.

Clickener’s husband, Robert, is a fellow military Veteran, and spoke to her rise for refugees.

“Teresa, the best way to describe her in this endeavor, is she is a quarterback,” bragged Robert Clickener. “Teresa was on the phone with the I-R-C in Fort Worth (International Rescue Committee), ‘hey, we have a place for displaced children,’ and before we knew it, we had families showing up here at the IRC in Abilene.”

After that call to the IRC, Clickener said she was able to welcome three Afghan families to Abilene, where she helped them transition into U.S. life.

“These three families, it has been such a wonderful journey to be on this with them,” Clickener beamed. “They came here with literally nothing except whatever clothes they could put on. I partnered up with my husband, as well as another Veteran who I served with in Afghanistan, and we were able to reach out to the community and find them resources: Get them their driver’s license, food, bedding, and all the basic necessities that we take for granted.”

In helping those three families, Clickener ignited a very special drive for American life in one family in particular.

“This gentleman, he had never, of course, been to America. He had worked with Americans. He was a soldier in Afghanistan in the Afghan National Army himself, and as we progressed, and he was learning a little bit more, we knew he needed to learn how to drive so he could get to work and provide for his family,” detailed Clickener. “It was like driving when I was teaching my kids as teenagers; hitting the breaks hard or running through a stop sign and screaming a couple of times.”

Clickener’s husband, Robert, added, “I was able to get a vehicle and rebuild it in my shop, and when Dean (last name redacted) passed his test, we handed him a set of keys.”

“He was speechless,” Clickener continued. “He did not know what to say except ‘thank you.’”

Whatever it is that makes a person remarkable, there’s no doubt that Teresa Clickener has it. Her friends and neighbors told KTAB she can take the negatives of life and easily turn them into positives.

“She is a remarkable person that I have learned so much from, even in my own journeys in PTSD, just watching how she copes with stuff, and by being a servant and giving of ourselves,” delighted Clickener’s husband. “In hindsight, it was probably the best healing that she could have ever had. It was just something that she needed to do, and I was going to support her.”