A Look at America’s Veterans

Name: Ret. Staff Sgt. Digna Vera

Place of duty: Kenner Army Health Clinic (Behavior Health Services)

Duty position: provider resiliency instructor

Time in service: 20 years

Former MOS: 68E – dental assistant

Last duty station: Fort Lee Dental Clinic Command

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y., by way of La Ceiba, Honduras

Family: son, Amir, 17 years old; mother, Esmerita Fernandez; three brothers and two sisters

Pastimes: “I like reading, watching good movies – chick flicks – and spending time with my son.”

The one person you most admire?: “My son – he’s the love of my life; he’s always been there for me, been there with me. I kind of see, through him, who I am and what I’ve produced. He’s a good young man, and that comes from me.”

One life-changing event: “When I left Honduras for the States in 1975. I grew up with grandma in a village where there was no traffic, no cars. There was sand everywhere; it was just free. I come to the States and there’s a culture shock; had never heard of snow and there was the language barrier. That changed my life because I was able to step back, seclude myself in a way, and observe everyone around me. So growing up, I was very observant, listened to people, listened to things around me.”

How would you summarize your military career?: “Overall, it was wonderful. I pretty much went places where I chose to go, and where I did go, I enjoyed the people. I learned a lot about the dental career field, and I learned about myself. When they put me in supervisor positions, which I had 15 years, I got to know more about my strengths and weaknesses and different personalities.”

The lesson you learned as a Soldier that has lifelong applications?: “I learned that I can do anything that I put my mind to. In basic training, everyone told me I wouldn’t make it; they’d say ‘You’re too prissy,’ and I never ran prior to coming into the military, never exercised. When I did go to basic and did pass, I realized I could do anything.”

You seem to have reached a point of self-realization while you were in the military… “Prior to the military, I was more reserved than I am now. I never used to say anything, was very quiet, was very shy, never could talk to people, could never look anyone in the eye. It was a culture thing. Now, I’m able to do that; I’m more confident and know who I am.”

Talk about the family aspect of military life: “Having a family and being in the military is very difficult. I take my hat off to those women who aren’t in the medical field. Being in this field, I’ve realized I kind of had it a little easier than the people in other fields because the deployments weren’t as much in the dental field. I was a single parent in the military, but I had the support of my unit. Some people don’t have that.”

You’ve served overseas. What was your best tour?: “Germany, Kaiserslautern – K-Town – from 2000-2007. My son loved it. He mainly grew up there. I extended there because he asked me to. The people were great, work was fine and it was a beautiful area.”

Goals: “To continue working at Kenner with the Provider Resiliency Program, working on getting my master’s and would like to become a social worker or a therapist or go into counseling.”

– Compiled by T. Anthony Bell