This week my guest is Vedia Barnett. She is the Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club Military Outdoors. Sierra Club is this week’s sponsored. And I am so excited to share not only about Vedia time in the Air Force but also about the work she is doing today to help eliminate barriers for veterans getting outside. Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors (SCMO) ensures military members, veterans, and their families enjoy the beauty of nature by creating programs and policies that remove barriers preventing them from experiencing the great outdoors. You can learn more about the work Vedia is doing by heading over to their website: https://www.sierraclub.org/military-outdoors
Thanks again to Sierra Club for sponsoring this week’s episode.
Vedia was a single mom and while initially opposed to joining the military she saw the opportunities that joining the military would give her and her daughter. She decided to join the Air Force because she scored well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and was able to get into the medical career field that she was hoping for. But to join the miltiary at the time she had to give up custody or her daughter who was almost a year old. She signed over custody to her parents and headed off to training.
For the first two weeks she struggled. Crying constantly and exhausted from the training. But as she saw people quit or get removed from training she realized that if she didn’t complete the training she would be back working at a job paying minimum wage and that wasn’t a path forward for her. She needed to change her life not only for her but for her daughter. She switched her focus and started focusing on her goal of completing training and tech school.
Her first assignment was as a Labor and Delivery tech at Lackland AFB, Wilford Hall. She really loved her job, but did not have the support from her supervisor. One challenge she faced was put on night shift and struggled to get enough sleep as she would pick her daughter up from childcare and then struggle though the day trying to get rest so she could be ready for her next shift. She also talked about the challenges she had when her daughter was sick. And when she was sick with meningitis she brought her daughter with her to the hospital because she had no where else to go. Luckily, her dad was able to fly in and watch her daughter for two weeks while she recovered.
As the end of her commitment in the military arrived she began prepare for what’s next. She worked with her uncle who was a recruiter in the Navy. He was able to help her find a job before she left active duty. And she also started school and utilized the GI Bill benefits she had earned. She was very thankful for such a great transition out of the military.
Her life continued and things were going well. Then she had a stroke. It was a challenging time and she discovered sitting in nature to be healing. Because of this experience she went back to school and when she graduated she got a job working for Sierra Club Military Outdoors program. She knew it was the perfect job for her and loves the work she does advocating for veterans and working to break down barriers that prevent veterans from getting outside.
We talked about the various programs created for veterans. Highlighting the resources on the Sierra Club’s Military Outdoor website and also the work she did in New York to help veterans to get outdoors. She also discussed women veteran only programs planned in the future. Mentioning that programs specifically for women can help break down barriers where it might not feel safe to attend events for veterans if you are the only women or have experiences Military Sexual Trauma.
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