When were you drafted or when did you enlist?
I commissioned August 10, 2012 through a ROTC program at The College of New Jersey after completing an undergraduate degree in Psychology. I entered the New Jersey National Guard as a Medical Service Officer.
Why did you choose your branch of service?
When I started considering joining the military, the Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) program at my college was the best fit. Through ROTC I was given opportunities to further my leadership knowledge and volunteer opportunities abroad.
What do you remember about that day?
After joining ROTC, I learned my maternal grandfather had served in the Army Reserves while living in Puerto Rico. He had retired as a Colonel prior to me turning 1 years old and gave me my Oath of Office upon commissioning. I clearly remember how proud he was of me to follow in his footsteps.
Can you describe a happy moment from your time in the service?
When I returned from Deployment and completed the transition period off Active Duty Orders, I returned to drilling as a Traditional Drilling Solider with the New Jersey Army National Guard. During this time I interviewed for and was granted a Company Command position. It was a humbling experience to be selected for the position over eleven of my peers.
Did your military experience inform the way you think about war or the military in general?
I did not grow up in a family where military service was a family tradition and did not have a strong opinion regarding war or the military in general. However, I remember the events of 9/11, although I was young, remembering that day and the days after how the country seemed united, drove me into the service. I wanted to do my part to serve my country. Serving in the Army National Guard has given me a deep respect not only for all who have served, but the family members and friends that support them. The military is not like any other job, it’s a lifestyle. For the Army National Guard, that job and lifestyle is split between your civilian responsibilities and Army responsibilities.
Who was your best friend in the military during your time at war? Do you still keep in touch with them today?
While deployed I had an officer who both mentored me and became a very close friend. Deployments are hard and the friendships you make while living through these hardships make a bond that is hard to explain. You both have a shared understanding of the difficulties of being separated from family and friends while dealing with the added stress of combat. We deployed in 2019 and still speak regularly, calling each other for anything from military to personal discussions. No matter what, we both are able to pick up the phone and call the other for advice or just to talk as you would do with any close family member.
What were the first few months out of the service like?
Although I did not completely transition out of the military, the adjust from deployment and active duty time to civilian and Traditional Guardsman status is hard. Upon returning home, I had to find a place to live, and a job. While transitioning off of active duty post deployment, I experienced a flurry of emotions from pride to isolation. It was hard to explain what a deployment is like, while also readjusting to the civilian lifestyle and National Guard schedule. Deployment was easy compared to the readjustment of coming home.
Do you have advice for those transitioning out of the military?
It is important to understand and prepare for the stress that comes with the change of the transition. Acknowledging and processing all the emotions that arise during the transition period can be instrumental, along with being humble enough to know where and how to ask for help when needed.
If you hadn’t gone into the service, what do you imagine your career life would have been? Did you explore a different career after service?
I believe I still would have ended up in a mental health focused career. I am unsure if I would have found my love of working with veterans so quickly, but know that I would have ended there as I am so grateful to have the opportunity to help those who have given so much.
Please add any additional stories or meaningful memories that you’d like to share.
There are so many stories from my time during both my National Guard service and active-duty time, but there has been a constant theme around my Soldiers and their success. From celebrating my 30th birthday abroad and my soldiers giving me joke presents throughout the day, to a Soldier telling me they decided to reenlist due to my leadership. Being a commander has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.