|Tell us about your military background.
I was one of the few who always knew I wanted to serve in the military. As a child, just before television ended its transmissions for the day, many channels would plan the National Anthem and a video of the Air Force conducting a flyover, after which, colored bars would appear, accompanied by a loud and annoying, continuous single beep, that would last until the next day’s broadcast began. I was lured in by that video. My family is rich with military service. My grandfather served during WWII, my father, and uncle both served in Vietnam, and my aunt and a few cousins all served in various branches. In 1990, almost one year after having completed high school, I enlisted into the National Guard. Five years later, I decided I wanted to live it full time, and joined the Active duty Regular Army. My duty stations included Fort Hood, Gordon, and Sam Houston, and overseas service in Korea. My Military Occupational Specialty was a Combat Medical Health Specialist, and I was a member of the Non Commissioned Officer Corps. I was a responsible for my squad’s training in medical trauma and life saving techniques. I was also responsible for their wellbeing and that of others, since many within my Company and platoon sought me out as a mentor.
What was the most rewarding aspect of your service?
The most rewarding aspect of my service was the nobility and pride that comes with training to save lives, serving this country, and leading. One of my greatest rewards was the trust that my soldiers gave to me. They entrusted me not only with their training, but also their secrets, fears, needs, aspirations, and most important, their lives. It was a give and take relationship, and I had to make them feel comfortable enough to follow me while feeling safe to do so, and I had to listen to them to understand their needs. We were family PERIOD. My soldiers trusted me and knew that I had their best interests at hand, and that meant a lot. It was a testimony that they shared things about their lives and sought knowledge from me. They knew they could count on me and I knew I could count on them. All of the things that come with a life of service, nobility, honor, sacrifice, looking for something greater than self were all things that gave me a meaningful life. I didn’t need a thank you, I didn’t need accolades, I needed a mission, and my military service provided me with just that, purpose.
What was one of the challenges you faced in your transition from military to civilian life?
The biggest challenge was the loss of mission and loss of purpose. I was good at what I did and knew what to do when I was in the military. I was received well and understood the system. I was cut off against my will [through medical retirement] before I could accomplish the goals I set for myself. I am a very goal oriented person, and had set the goal to be a Drill Sergeant, 1st Sergeant, and a Command Sergeant Major. When that dream crashed, so too did my heart, into a million pieces. I had hoped to stay in as long as I could, I had planned to retire from the military. Once my goal was set, there was nothing going to stop me, but when the Army decided I couldn’t serve, and that I was no longer fit for duty, that was like going from 100 miles an hour and coming to a screeching halt in the middle of nowhere, with no direction, no purpose, and just sitting in your care trying to figure out what’s next. I wasn’t ready to re-enter civilian life. It was heartbreaking that I couldn’t stay in. I fell into a depression for about year after I was out. I didn’t realize at the time I was depressed, but looking back, to this day, there is about a span of a year and a half that I cannot account for. I was on auto pilot.
What inspired you to become involved in WoVeN?
Tara Galovksi presented at the National Women Veterans Coordinator Conference in Virginia. When she was talking about the WoVeN program, I thought it was perfect and that I would love to be a part of it. In my occupation, and over the 10 plus years of working in this space, I have come to know that women need each other, we need a place to talk among ourselves to others that understand the life that we have lived. Working in this space, alongside veterans and VA, I know there is a need for a program like WoVeN, and I knew a lot of women would be looking for something like this. I thought it was perfect to have the opportunity to talk to women who might just be getting out of the military and are actively looking for a network of women who might understand them. It’s an opportunity to help pick up the pieces. It’s all about giving back. Mostly, I thought it would be a great opportunity to give back to women just like me! When I’m placed in a position to give help to others, I always want to do that.
What would you like to tell women who are thinking of joining WoVeN?
I would tell them “Come on!” There’s nothing to lose and together we’ve got life to live, and the world to gain! Come on, what are you waiting for, together, we can pick up the pieces to each other’s lives and piece them together again.