Vernessa Blackwell understands the hardships facing many veterans after the military. She knows all about the fine line between family and career and everyday strives to give veterans the tools to have full and functioning lives. Her latest book, Camouflaged Sisters, Vernessa, along with 12 other female authors, shares her story of life and struggles in the military. As the founder of, Life U Imagine, Vernessa’s own experiences have prepared her to help her own clients in their own hurdles of military life and transition. Let’s meet her.
Is Camouflaged Sisters your first author experience?
No, I’ve co-authored several books including, The Art of Activation, HLIC, You are Beautiful, Daily Dose of Decisions, and Daughters of Distinction Volume 3-5 and Volume 6-7. For some people, sharing their stories may be too recent or painful to discuss because it stirs up complex emotions. However, for me, it’s a freeing experience. I get to share my story, release my pain, and perhaps, impact someone’s life.
Camouflaged Sisters features 13 African-American Female Veterans discussing their stories and perspectives on overcoming struggles while in the military. Tell us briefly what overall issue you talk about in your portion of the book/?
I talk about the difficulties veterans, especially female veterans, face during the process of transitioning into civilian life. From outdated resources to inadequate healthcare, the odds against a female veteran successfully transitioning are stacked against them. I also talk about the importance of having a plan-of-action and a support system to help veterans ease into transition.
What lead you to want to share your story?
I wanted to share my story in the hopes that it ignites soldiers, who are transitioning, to pursue their dreams. More often than not, transitioning leaves veterans feeling confused. They don’t know what their next steps are. I want to help inspire them to discover their dreams, set goals, and achieve those goals and dreams.
You were in the military for 22 years. Was there ever a time -prior to reaching retirement eligibility-that you considered leaving the military?
I considered leaving the military many times. I had dreams I desperately wanted to achieve. However, I knew deep down that I had to weigh the pros and cons of leaving or staying until I was eligible for retirement. I also knew that no matter when I transitioned, I needed a solid plan. This took time to develop, and ultimately, I decided it was more beneficial for me to stay than to leave.
Tell us some places you lived while serving?
I’ve lived in many places throughout the world. I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was stationed in South Carolina, Indiana, and Florida. I’m also a National Guard soldier, so I’ve had annual trainings in Arkansas, California, and Iowa. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to go to many different countries because of my time in the military. I’ve visited Paris, Germany, Italy, Panama, and Switzerland. I have an insatiable appetite for travel. It’s one of my favorite hobbies.
What is family life like and how did you balance it all?
There’s an ongoing battle that most high-speed soldiers and entrepreneur’s wage within. And that’s how to balance their time between their personal and professional lives. For me, I’m divorced and not in a relationship at this time. So that makes a little easier for me. Let’s face it: I love my family, but the truth of the matter is that I also really love my work.
So what can you do to try and strike the right balance between business demands and family? First, set aside time each week dedicated strictly to your family. Second, if you must cancel family time, always reschedule immediately. This way you can indeed make up for lost time. Third, avoid distractions. Time is your most valuable asset. When you’re with your family, unplug from electronics and other distractions including cell phones. Fourth, be honest with yourself about what’s important. Don’t rationalize long hours and canceled commitments as necessary to make your and your family’s life better. Ease up on those extra hours that aren’t absolutely necessary and devote them to your family instead. Your family refuels your will to win. Fifth, be open to those closest to you about your life and work. Share your journey with them. They care about you. And sixth, leave work at work. It’s a boundary that benefits you and your family.
What is the most common issue you encounter as a Veteran’s Transition Coach? Do you feel the military does enough to guide, help and assist by providing resources of its own once they leave the military or even while they are still enlisted? If not what is one thing you would recommend they do based on your experience?
The most common issue I encounter as a Veteran’s Transition Coach is that most veterans don’t know how to translate their military experience into relevant civilian experience. They cannot convey to potential employers how their military experience will help them excel at civilian jobs.
I feel that the military does the best it can when it comes to helping veterans transition. However, the resources available to veterans are outdated and insufficient. For example, the main transition program available to veterans hasn’t been updated in almost two decades.
In order to successfully transition into civilian life, I suggest military members do two things. The first, is to find a mentor. Ask someone who has already been through the process to guide them. The second, is to create a plan-of-action. This should include obtaining the proper certifications they’ll need to get the job they want after they transition.
Whose chapter do you recommend, besides yours, that you feel resonated with either you the most or that will resonate with military women overall?
I recommend Lila’s chapter. It resonates with me because it also talks about transitioning. I hope it will also resonate with other military members. Transitioning is difficult and a topic that needs extensive discussion.
What is your favorite vacation spot? Where is one place you have not visited but would like to?
My favorite vacation spot is Puerto Rico. Between the delicious food like fried plantain, the lush vegetation, and beautiful beaches, it was breathtaking.
One day, I hope to travel to Hawaii. I’ve not been there yet, but its culture, captivating ocean, and vibrant flowers fascinate me.
Many issues are across the board in the workplace, do you think career women in general will be able to relate to the stories in this book as well?
Yes, I absolutely believe career women will be able to relate to the stories in this book. Retirement is inevitable. Women need to be prepared for anything that might arise during or after the process. They need to address their dreams, make each day before the transition meaningful, and create the life they want to lead after retirement.
What advice would you give to women just entering or thinking about joining the military branch of their choice about military life?
First, I would advise them to reflect and decide if the military is the right choice for them. If it is, then I would suggest they start creating a plan-of-action for their transition and find a support system to help them along the way. Retirement may seem far off, but being prepared is essential for their success.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes, I would like to let readers know more about my business , Life U Imagine. Our Mission is to assist veterans in making a successful transition from military service to civilian life, with all veterans achieving, within their potential, their goals in the transition domains of employment and career education, living situation, personal effectiveness / well-being and community – life functioning. We do this by helping service members go from boots to suits which includes helping veterans transition successfully from the battlefront to the home front; Assisting veterans in developing a successful reentry plan, minimizing efforts of stress associated with military service; addressing social problems at their root cause and helping transfer military training to America’s labor force.
My clients want to live the live they want to live with happiness and joy at Life U Imagine. We help you to accomplish this.
Preorder your copy today for $12 + $3.50 shipping and handling at PayPal.Me/lifeuimaginedllc
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