Veterans Serving the Civilian Community

November 16, 2021

Angeles Winesett

Angeles is a veteran of the United States Navy, which piqued her interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Her natural empathy, southern roots, and military training are all key in helping her understand the importance of awareness, speaking up, and squashing the "but" factor. Additionally, she has spent the last 17 years honing her executive administrative skills by simultaneously keeping multiple clients organized, on schedule, and within budget throughout various projects.

My experience with the military began as an Air Force "brat" where I lived in Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and the United Kingdom. I made lifelong friends as a military dependent, and gained respect for those who wore their uniforms with honor and purpose.

As a teenager who wanted to make a difference in the world through my every day actions (yes, I am a bit idealistic), I joined the U.S. Navy. I saw military service as a place where I would be treated with respect because of my day-to-day actions, rather than where I came from or who I knew. 

In serving, I learned about community and respect.

I came to understand that training is often more important than a college education. I mastered my own work and gained knowledge about my shipmates' and colleagues' work so I could step in where and when needed. If there was an emergency (personal or national), any one of us could step away from the desk knowing that the work would still be completed with excellence.

The military community is where I learned that every person is:

  • equally capable of work and tasks;
  • equally responsible for our communities, each other, and ourselves;
  • equally open to opportunity and advancement;
  • and equally deserving of respect as human beings.

My particular upbringing (southern, military, middle class) taught me to be proud of who I am because of where I'm from and how I was raised, to protect what I accumulated, and to never share my personal/family life outside of the home.

But serving our nation taught me to be proud of the efforts I put forth, to treat everyone as an equal, to allow myself to commune with people from different backgrounds in order to better understand them, and to share everything I gain.

Aren't we all better when none of us is wanting? Don't we all have the ability to help someone else? Can't we all learn something from the person next to us?

When it comes to leadership and/or being part of a team, some valuable military lessons I learned (that can benefit civilians, too) include:

  • If and when something needs changing, look to yourself first.
  • Acknowledge those you depend on to help keep you prepared.
  • Listen more than you speak.

Veterans are an often overlooked and misunderstood group, and employers of individuals who have served in the military experience the benefits of those who are:

  • trained to adapt and learn quickly;
  • disciplined self starters;
  • committed, loyal, responsible;
  • great at recognizing and encouraging strengths in others.

As much as the military is viewed as an organization that masters assimilation and uniformity, I found the best thing about being a United States Navy sailor was getting to know people from considerably different backgrounds than my own. Each person gave me something to carry forward, helped me learn truths about my own heritage, and provided a key to bettering myself. I learned not to try to be better than the next person: just be better than I was yesterday, last year, in my 30s, or in my 20s. Something worth remembering as we all work toward building a more inclusive future for us all.