Strengths, talents, and passions are woven within each person. These unique gifts are at the root of individual purpose. Many take intentional effort to discover their purpose. They investigate within what drives and energizes them. They consider what they are willing to sacrifice to do what they believe they’re called to, and they contemplate who they want to help. After all, real purpose isn’t about self, it’s about serving those around you; it’s about one’s Mission to Serve.
Courtney Smythe, a beautiful and vibrant high school athlete, wanted to know the path to her purpose. While gathered to pray with other athletes and coaches from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, she recalls praying about her next steps in life. She clearly recalls the Spirit of God speaking to her heart that she was to join the military. Her long-held love for her country and desire to serve confirmed the military was the right decision to make.
Which branch would she choose? The one who took the time to recruit her! Courtney picked the Navy because the Navy recruiter had the ability to speak into Courtney’s communication style and was able to provide Courtney with the information she needed to choose without waiver.
In the 13 years Courtney served as a Logistics Specialist, she also did a lot of volunteer work. She describes this work with the words “I got to do…” Courtney planned parties, coached and tutored kids, and led summer reading programs. She recalls the most rewarding experience in the military was “the ability to serve my country and follow the calling God had for me.” She elaborated by saying, “I made amazing relationships and had wonderful mentors. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
After being honorably discharged, Courtney enrolled in a work study program at the VA. She realized that many who worked there weren’t vets and could see a great need to bridge the gap in understanding. She began dreaming about a program that could be – and should be – put into action to bridge the understanding between these two very differing worlds. Through an internship at the VA and looking for different resources in the community, she stumbled upon the Navigation training through the Arizona Coalition for Military Families. Her first thoughts when learning about the Be Connected program was, “This is everything I’ve been talking about!”
Courtney knew she wanted to be involved with Be Connected and she didn’t wait for someone to knock on her door to invite her to get involved. She contacted the organization and asked if there were any employment opportunities. There just happened to be a position open for Community Coordinator, Courtney started her new position immediately after graduating.
Courtney’s advice to transitioning veterans is, “You don’t know what you don’t know. Before you get out, prepare to get a job and plan to use your GI bill. Pick some good civilian friends that can help you navigate through the inevitable language barrier. It will take some time, but with their help, you will make it through.” Courtney also advises vets to contact their local VA and get connected to a social worker who will be able to pass on necessary resources. She says, “If you’re in Arizona, get connected with Be Connected!”
The passion Courtney has to Be Connected isn’t reserved to veterans alone. It extends to everyone who has a desire to support veterans. She says, “Take the Career Navigation course to break down the stigma about veterans. Look at the amazing attributes veterans have and tap into those strengths. Educate yourself in understanding the veteran and become a Be Connected Partner Organization. It’s an opportunity for you to be part of something bigger than self; an ecosystem of support for all who serve.”
For more information about Courtney and her work at Be Connected, please visit www.beconnectedaz.org
image credit Unsplash - Dennis Guten