Every day is Veterans Day for veterans who feel the pain of emotional or physical injuries suffered in war. Veterans may be a part of a family and keep military memorabilia in visible spots as a reminder of an important time in their lives: what they saw, the buddies they lost, the victories they won. Or they may have these reminders hidden in the back of a closet. Some wear caps when they leave their residences, identifying themselves by the branches of the military in which they served. Some want to hear, “Thank you for your service,” and others would rather not hear those words.
As they navigate their lives, veterans are always on the alert: some for the enemy, some in response to sudden loud noises, and some for other veterans who understand what it is to be a veteran.
They were drafted into service or they volunteered. Volunteers join for a host of reasons: there were no work opportunities in their area, they wanted to explore the world, they needed to become more independent/responsible, they were searching for meaning when they passed by a recruiting station or saw an ad on television and decided to speak with a recruiter, they felt a desire to serve their country.
Selena Loyd, Director of the Miami County Veterans’ Service Center, attributes her 20-year career in the Air Force to the impact of an uncle, her mother’s unmarried twin brother, career Navy, Lonnie Hamm. As one of seven children in an under-resourced family in Atlanta, Selena looked forward to gifts from Uncle Lonnie: Christmas ornaments, Hickory Farm cheese-and- sausage packages. As Loyd says, “I remember especially a silk pillow case from Korea with light blue ruffles and an ornate temple embroidered on it. I kept that pillow case for years. I treasured it, and it became my vision of the outside world. As I caressed it, I thought, Wow, this is from another country.”
Loyd graduated in 1980 from J E Brown High School where she had loved her ROTC drills, the camaraderie and the uniforms. She says, “As a black female in
Atlanta from a low-income family, my best avenue to improve myself was the military.”
She was then off to Dekalb Community College on a delayed-entry plan to the Air Force. In November of 1982, she began active duty, and her specialties were communication and computer operations. Thus, she began the travels she had always dreamed about: Texas, California, Alaska. In Alaska the job was to deter Russians from invading U.S. air space. Her deployment to that air base at Galena, Alaska, (1987-1989) was interrupted by an assignment to Woomera, Australia.
The air base in Australia was a closed one operated with American forces and the Australian Air Force and civilians.
She was told by her co-workers in Alaska, “They’re not going to like you down there because you’re black.”
Loyd asked, “Why?”
Their response, “Aborigines.”
Loyd’s comeback, “They’re just going to have to deal with it.”
Obviously, they did because Loyd reports she got to know a lot of wonderful people in her time there (1989-1993) and still keeps in touch with some of them. At Woomera she worked in a communications room in support of Desert Shield and Desert Storm and earned the title of “Space Communication Operator of the Year.”
Fast forward to today. Loyd’s passion for all things military continues and as Director of Miami County Veterans’ Service Center , she views her role as “honoring those who served with dignity up to their last breath and including honor guards at their funerals. There are too many elderly veterans living alone without the resources they need, and we owe them for their service. We help them access those resources with a goal of their independence.
Loyd’s college degrees, specialized training, a trove of rich personal experiences have provided her with the expertise needed in her role. She says, “My passion is to make veterans know we care about them. Recently, we helped a veteran whose furnace wasn’t working, and a local company provided a new furnace. We were then able to replace his air conditioner. He sent us a beautiful letter of appreciation, and we keep four or five letters like his on the wall at the center and rotate them, saving the older letters and filing them for historic purposes.”
Loyd indicates that the programs in Ohio were established at the end of World War II when veterans were returning from war and had issues that no organization was addressing. Each Ohio county now has a center, and our support for them is critically important as we strive to turn what we say into positive, quantifiable actions.
The Miami County Veterans’ Service Center is located at 510 West Water Street, Suite 140, Troy, Ohio. (937) 440-8126.
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., is a professor at Edison State Community College and also works with veterans. Reach her at 937-778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.