Women of the Military

From the Military to Award-Winning Author

Episode Summary

How do you go from military member to award-winning author? Check out Lila’s story this week on the podcast and how she started sharing the stories of military women after leaving the military behind.

Episode Notes

Lila Holley is the multiple award-winning, Amazon bestselling visionary author behind the Camouflaged Sisters book series. This US Army Veteran honorably served 22 years on Active Duty and since retiring has helped 93 women become published authors, sharing their stories with the world. Lila is on a mission to empower storytellers to take ownership of their narrative and provide a safe space for them to share their stories. She believes there is no one better to tell these stories than the people who live them.

Lila joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Program in high school and found what she was meant to do. But when she became pregnant at fifteen, she thought her dream of joining the military was over. Luckily, she had her family’s support and once her son was in kindergarten, she was able to join the Army. She left her son in the care of her family and then went off to boot camp to be an Intel Analyst. Her first assignment was an unaccompanied tour to Korea for 13 months. And then after Korea, she came back to the states and was reunited with her son.

It was tough to be a single mother and be in the Army. There were a number of challenges, but she attributes her success to being able to work hard and always finding supporting families that were able to help her as she moved and advanced in her career.

At the seven-year mark, she became a Warrant Officer. Warrant Officers focus directly on their job and are technical experts. While Officers are often pulled away to manage people and run the daily tasks the Warrant Officers stay focused on the mission and the job. She loved being an Intel Analyst and was able to thrive in her career.

She deployed in 2004. She had gotten married a few years earlier and her husband was also active duty Army. They knew separation would be part of their story. And for the first three years they lived in different states. And then when they were finally stationed together her husband left for a deployment. Then shortly after his homecoming, she left for Iraq. Her husband talked about needing time to adjust back to normal life and she used his cues to help with her own transition back after deployment. She also came home to her two-year-old daughter. On top of all that, her husband had transitioned out of the military while she was overseas. Life had changed a lot, but through open communication and a lot of grace, they were able to continue on.

Her husband played the role of supporter for the last seven years of her career and she talked about how important the support of military spouses is not only to their service member but the military as a whole. Military spouses often make countless sacrifices that go unrecognized and her husband and daughter were not exempt. They moved 4 times her last five years in the service. But she always knew she had her husband’s support.

She transitioned out of the military and planned to knock it out of the park-like she had with all other challenges she had faced. But leaving the military meant she lost a part of herself and it took years to figure out the new Lila and find herself again. 

Through that process, she created Camouflaged Sisters. So far, they have shared 93 stories of military women through the books they have published on Amazon. She is a leader for other women veterans and encourages women to get involved in the military community and share their stories. She also wants people to know that transitioning takes time. The military leaves a mark on your life and it could be 3 years or 33 years, finding yourself after the military will take time.

Connect with Lila:

https://camouflagedsisters.org/

Related Episodes:

Being Stop-Lossed in the Army – Episode 23

The Struggle of Coming Home from War – Episode 7

Military Women and their History – Episode 70

Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman  00:00

Welcome to Episode 92 of the Women of the Military Podcast this week. My guest is Lila, Holley. How do you go from military member to award winning author? We'll have to listen to Lila's story this week to hear how she did that Lila is a multiple award winning Amazon best selling visionary author behind the camouflage sisters book series, the US Army veteran honorably served 22 years on active duty, and since retiring has helped 93 women become published authors sharing their stories with the world Lila is on a mission to empower storytellers to take ownership of their narrative and provide a safe place for women to share these stories. She believes there is no one better to tell these stories than the people who live them. It's another great episode. So let's get started. You're listening to the Women of the Military Podcast where we share the stories of female servicemen members and how the military touch their lives. I'm Amanda Huffman. I'm an Air Force veteran, author of women of the military and a collaborative author of Brave Women Strong Faith. I am also a military spouse and Mom. I created Women of the Military Podcast as a place to share stories of military women past and present with the goal of finding the heart of the story while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women, and be inspired to change the world, keep tuned for this latest episode of women of the military. The show Lila, I'm excited to have you here.

 

Lila Holley  01:42

Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

 

Amanda Huffman  01:45

Let's start with why did you decide to join the military?

 

Lila Holley  01:47

Well, I'm originally from New York State, upstate New York. And it was something I don't know where it came from, but it was something that I wanted to do early on, and because of that, I joined Junior ROTC in high school. Then, you know, I realized I was really good at it. Like I rose through the grtc ranks really fast. I became like a natural leader. I kind of made sense because I'm the oldest of six kids. So that leader was always in me, I feel like but then to see it in action and Junior ROTC really kind of sparked the fire to really, really pursue a military career. And so I thought it was derailed because I became a teenage mother. I had my first son at 15. And I thought that was going to prevent me from joining the military. But my family really supported me and I was able to join once my son started headstart, I was able to join the military at 20 years old.

 

Amanda Huffman  02:39

Wow. Yeah. So you are doing j Razzi and you are on like, an exciting path, join the military and then you became mommy kind of felt like that dream of joining the military was over, but through the support of your family and the headstart program you were able to join.

 

Lila Holley  02:56

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was made world of difference. desire to join never left me and then when I saw the opportunity opened up for me, I've just jumped on it and didn't look back.

 

Amanda Huffman  03:08

So did you listen to the Army?

 

Lila Holley  03:10

I did. I enlisted in the Army active duty due to recruiter there in my hometown. It was pretty good. I was able to choose from a score pretty high on the aspects, I was able to choose from some pretty good jobs. And I chose military intelligence as my career field. And I stayed in that career field my whole 22 years in the military,

 

Amanda Huffman  03:29

They found something that was a good fit for you.

 

Lila Holley  03:31

Yes.

 

Amanda Huffman  03:33

So what was it like to leave your son behind and go to boot camp and MIT and start your life in the army while I said you had to leave yourself?

 

Lila Holley  03:44

Yeah, it was tough. You know, a lot of a lot of women that join the military who are mothers beforehand, they find themselves in a situation and it is a tough decision to make. It's a little easier when you have the support of your family and that that made it a little bit easier. I didn't want to put a major burden on them. And that's why I waited for him to join to start school. And so it was tough. I really missed my family. I missed him. But that was my motivation to succeed and do well.

 

Amanda Huffman  04:12

And then when you finished your first base, did he move to where you are?

 

Lila Holley  04:18

No, not not immediately because my first assignment was in Korea. So that was, yeah, I was on a company tour for one year in Korea. So Nope, he wasn't able to join me then. Yeah, I know. Right. I was like, I don't know anybody Korea why they said to me over there.

 

Amanda Huffman  04:36

Okay, so you did basic AIT, and then you did your first year in Korea. And then you came back to the States. And what was that transition to come back after

 

Lila Holley  04:47

I ended up being extended in Korea for one year. So I was in a beta 13 months 13 months when I came in, in in 1990. Right when the Gulf War was kicking off, so you know, things got a little mixed up during that time. So they were trying to figure out if they was going to extend us in Korea while the war was taken off in the Middle East and so much other stuff going on. But anyway, I eventually got out of Korea and was assigned to for store in Georgia and went through the process of getting my son to come down there and live with me, eventually got him down there with me. And it worked out pretty good. It was it was tough at first being a single mom, but again, I just have been, I felt like I've been blessed my whole career to have people surrounding me who took us under their wing, I adopted us as their additional family. So it was easy to implement a family care plan and create a family care plan that implemented when necessary, because I had those people around me who were like extended family to me, so that was exciting to have him with me, but it was still it was it was tough, you know, as a single mother in the military. Our schedules were demanding both for him and I and it took a lot out of us but I feel like we survived even though when I look back over that time, it was a blur like Everything, you know, you do one day and you go to sleep and you start all over again and again and again and again. But we survived. And I'm grateful that we survived. And it's due in part to the people that were surrounding the families and the people that were surround us.

 

Amanda Huffman  06:13

Yeah, having that support network really helps and makes a big difference on your military experience. So it makes a lot of sense. And that's good that you had the support that you needed, because I've talked to a number of single moms and they talk about how challenging is and how, how hard it is to end like how they kind of have to do all these things and have a support network and so forth. Yes. What out of your career stood out from 1990 to 2001. We were like drying down the end of the Gulf War. We're kind of in peace time and then September 11 happened did anything in that time period. really stick out that you want to talk about? 

 

Lila Holley  06:53

Yeah, actually, my career was going well. I was fast tracking in my career. I like i said i was military intelligence. I enjoyed that. And then the opportunity came for me to transition over to becoming a warrant officer. And so I put in my Warrant Officer packet eventually got selected for that and went to school and just it took off from there. I was very fortunate in my career to work around some great Warrant Officers like that they really set the standard for me what a warrant officer was in the military, and just the level of expertise that they bring to the organization. It just really set the stage for me to want to desire to take my career down that route. So for those of you who don't know what a warrant officers because all the branches don't have them. I think the Air Force had them way, way back in the day. I know the Marines still have one officers and a Navy as well. But what it is is a technical, it isn't officer, but it is a technically specialized officer. So for me my career field was military intelligence. So what that means is that I was technically proficient in military expression. As a military intelligence, I was an analyst. And so everywhere I went, that was my job whereas regular officers like a captain or a major, they will fall into staff positions like s one s two company command and stuff like that. Whereas a warrant officer wherever I went as a, as a technical as a warrant officer who was a military intelligence analyst, I did my analytical job everywhere I went. So over time, I SS became an expert in my field. And so that's what that's what the army looks as are at their Warrant Officers as the experts in their field because the army trades us first off, we're enlisted and we become specialized in that field. During our enlisted time, we put in our packet where our packets are scrutinized and then we're selected in our field of expertise. And then throughout our training and our additional assignments and additional training. At this level training. We are become actual experts in that field. That is the best the premise of what a warrant officer is. So My whole 22 years in the Army, I was an analyst, military intelligence officer enlisted Warrant Officer,

 

Amanda Huffman  09:06

right? Yeah, that's a really good way to explain it. Because when you're talking about like how officers have like, their Intel, but then they also have the other responsibilities of like taking care of the squadron or going and doing staff work, and being an officer, and like, you are just focused on the job and the mission. Really, that makes a lot of sense.

 

Lila Holley  09:27

Yeah, I've really enjoyed it. There's a learning curve, as you know, with any anything that you learn, but it was, I was really grateful to have to have that time to really learn my craft that the military trained me for.

 

Amanda Huffman  09:40

Yeah, so you became a warrant officer. How many years in the military Did you have when you made that transition?

 

Lila Holley  09:45

Yeah, I was really young in my career, probably at my seven year mark, which is really, really early in a career. You know, I guess in comparison to these days, I made rank really fast. When I came in because of Junior ROTC. I came in with the little rank And to begin with and then I really fast track in my ranking moving up this enlisted rate. I was an e6 in like five years. So and that's because I had I had great assignments and i and i was like hungered for thirst and wanting to learn the job. So I was in Korea, and then I was in for store in a mechanized infantry division. And then from there, I went to a joint assignment. And so that's kind of it. I lucked out and never I feel like I lucked out in that regard because of my MLS, military intelligence and in vast areas where I can I could go in my in my career. So I did, I wanted to learn, you know, all aspects of military intelligence. And because of that, I felt like I was really well rounded by the time I did make e6 so fast, and then by the time I put about one officer packet, I felt like I was pretty well rounded as a soldier and was excited to get picked up. That is exciting.

 

Amanda Huffman  10:55

I mean, it's an honor to be selected for so especially these videos Young. So that's really cool. 2001 happens and September 11 kind of changed the military. I don't I've talked to a lot of people and we didn't. We talked about how I didn't realize how big of an impact September 11 would have on the military. But you I mean, you were in till 2012. So you kind of saw the whole evolution of Enya had been in for 10 years, almost 11 years and want to happen. And so what was it like to for that to happen? Did you that? Where were you and what how did it change your life? Yeah,

 

Lila Holley  11:31

I'm, like I said, I'm originally from New York, New York State. So I know immediately when it happened, that our lives were our lives were going to change drastically. I knew it was at Fort Leavenworth and I was a part of the battle command and training program. So we were there conducting that training exercise with the 42nd Infantry Division elements of that organization. Were in Fort Leavenworth with us going through their annual training exercise, and I know this specifically because Four years later, in 2005, I deployed with the 42nd Infantry Division. I was attached to them as augmente and ended up deploying with them to Iraq for the war. It was so interesting to me being a native New Yorker and to be able to train with these individuals and just watching the aftermath of the attacks and how they impacted that unit specifically, understanding you know, analysts point of view and and military intelligence person to have an access to information. I understood watching them go through responding to the attacks and how it impacted their state and their reaction. It was just very interesting to be a part of that we cut the SSI short, obviously, they had to pack up and they had to assume their roles in the state of New York because they were National Guardsmen, they belong to the state. So they had to go back. They were very concerned about family members obviously, and they had to go back to the state and secure the city and just take on different roles over responsibilities as a result of the attack, it was such an honor to me again, as a native New Yorker and then to be with them when the attacks happen and to see how they responded to then four years later in 2005, to be able to have the opportunity to be attached to the owner and then deploy with them to Iran. It was just a great honor to be a part of that, that their legacy,

 

Amanda Huffman  13:21

Yeah, especially up in New York, and like having that personal connection and knowing how much of an impact I think, yeah, I grew up in California. So I didn't understand really what was going on and how it would change the world. And how it changed my life. I joined the military. So let's fast track forward to your deployment. And you said you were with an infantry Infantry Division. Yeah,

 

Lila Holley  13:47

Yeah. My most of my most of my military career I was with I was tactical what they what the army calls tactical. I was with divisions mechanized infantry, it was mainly the type of divisions that I was assigned to for Second, I deploy a 42nd Infantry Division at a New York State, which they call the rainbow division, which has brigades all over the country. And it was a unique setup because we had two brigades out of third infantry division that fell under the division headquarters, and then two National Guard division brigades that fell under the division headquarters. And that made up the division. So two active duty brigades at a third ID and two National Guard brigades that will actually belong to 42nd made up the whole division. It was very unique structure to say the least.

 

Amanda Huffman  14:37

Different types of cultures...

 

14:39

Absolutely. That's why I was so unique. And me being that division being a part of the division headquarters. My objective was the mission. You know, I didn't care about I didn't care. I was active duty, but I signed to a National Guard division, but the bottom line was we were there to save lives. And that was that was my ultimate goal and objectives. So putting the culture to the side putting all those egos and things to the side let's just get this done and that was you know, the mentality that I went into it with

 

Amanda Huffman  15:08

Yeah, what exactly were you doing? I mean, you probably can't talk about all of it but like what was your like main mission or goal and like generalized terms?

 

Lila Holley  15:18

Yeah, we work directly for the division commander. We briefed him on the you know, the Intel situation daily, I oversaw the day shift analysts and just had a great opportunity to really grow them and mold some young soldiers during this time allowing them opportunity to brief them and prepare briefings are the general just given them some great you know, real life opportunities to hone their skills as Intel analysts, and then I created those relationships with the brigade espnews shared information, and like I said, Our ultimate objective was to make sure until was analyzed properly and correctly and disseminated in a timely manner. American lives.

 

Amanda Huffman  16:01

And did you feel any like discrimination because you were a woman and you were attached to an infantry unit or was on on something that you felt?

 

Lila Holley  16:09

Well, I got a big mouth, the number one cover from the war. I just, you know, my, like I said, and the fact that I that I did have a little rank on my chest By that time, you know, I felt like what's my learning curve, because I didn't initially start off with the unit out of like a late attachment. So my learning curve was very steep. What's my learning curve add up to where it needed to be. When I became that valued member of the team, all of that was pushed to the side I didn't, I never let it stop me. I never let it bother me. But my ultimate goal was getting up to speed allow builders to get me squared away on the training and the information that I needed to do my job effectively. And once I got there, I was considered a very valuable part of the team and an interesting guide, the counselor to the to the general. So by that by the end of that I grew so much As an analyst, as a warrant officer, as a woman, as a soldier, and as a leader, and it was all thanks to my team of soldiers, my efforts going in understanding where I was weak and taking the time to really grow in my weak areas. And then that relationship that I was able to create with the command team there from the general on the rest of the staff, and just really everybody having the mindset that we're here for mission and we're here to work as a team that makes sure we save lives. And at the end of it, like it was a great experience for me. That's good.

 

Amanda Huffman  17:33

And so after your deployment, you came back home and transition kind of back to normal life and what was that experience like?

 

Lila Holley  17:41

I was, you know, that transition coming back is tough is it takes time. And so I think that the toughest part of it is giving yourself time to make the transition. I was really concerned because my daughter was parent a turn two at that time I left her when she had just turned one year. years old, that was nerve wracking to come back to the unknown with her, you know, and once I got back that we fell right into the swing of things is my role in the family. But I think the main thing, especially for those deploy, that return from deployments and return it from time away from family is to a big thing is give yourself time to make that transition to fit back into your family routine, you know, and don't feel overwhelmed. IBM have a lot of communication between you and your spouse and your and your children so that they understand that you need this time for 12 months, your only thing is your weapon and your rucksack and all the gear that you have to wear, you know, and then all the other individuals pulled with you getting back into the swing of things in a family environment. It just takes time. And I think for me, I gave myself that time and the reason why I knew that is because my husband deployed asthma deployed first out of dual military as my husband was deploying. He missed the whole premise. My daughter was able to come home, she was about five days old, he was able to come home and be with us for two weeks. She was born. But when he came back, I made the mistake of picking him up. We were so excited to see him. So I felt I figured, man, maybe he's excited to be home and wants to drive. I said, hey, go ahead and drive a long drive, but it was drive nonetheless. So after that, he told me, he was like, I really didn't want to drive like I didn't, you know, I have to slowly get back into the swing of things. And when he told me that kind of mental mental memory of that, and I was like, Okay, that makes sense for me to slowly get back into the swing of things at a slow process of getting back to normal life, if you will. So I thank them for telling me that and I will be honest, and telling you that and I remember that when I came back myself, and just remember to give myself time to make that jump back into regular normal life.

 

Amanda Huffman  19:57

Yeah, it does take time and I think sometimes You just want to be back home and you want like the climate to be behind us. You just want to like push past that. But everybody's changed to the experience and you got to take the time to readjust back to normal life. It can't just happen instantly, unfortunately. So your husband was active duty to So what was it like to be dual military and to have kids and like, be in the Army and

 

Lila Holley  20:28

to be doing military? stuff? I'm not gonna even lie. Yeah, it is. So it's so tough. And I, I tell couples all the time, like, I will tell you, you just got to keep the communication open, and you got to know what you're signing up for. Right? And so me and my husband, we were a little older. When we got married, I was 30. He was 35. We were career soldiers at the time, you know, in our career, you know, in our careers for quite some time when we got married. And so because of that our first three years of marriage, we were in two different states, like the Unfortunately, we live in two different states for the first three years of our marriage. And so we were career soldiers considered career soldiers over 10 years in service. And so, because of that, we we, it just, we knew what we were signing up for. And we have a long discussion going into it, we knew what we were signing up for. My husband ended up on a promotion list getting promoted, getting his tour started time. And so that kind of extended our time of separation. But, you know, I, we had to give him that time to pursue those things for his career. And he also gave me time to pursue the things that I needed to pursue for my career. And so we knew going into it what we were signing up for. And so because of that, I think if you go into knowing knowing what you're signing up for, I think that makes a world of difference other than I tell people, our honeymoon last five years. The first three years we lived in two different states. We're seeing each other like every three, four months, right? And then we finally get stationed together and then he deploys probably four months into us live Together, he deployed for the war. And then he comes back, I deploy. And and that's, that's five years. And so in essence, the first ideas of our marriage, we shared the same address for probably about nine months at that time. And so, and then from there, we went on, but we'll be celebrating 20 years married this year. So thank God, you know, we survived that. And like I said, we knew what we were signing up for. Because I felt like because we were a little bit older, a little bit more tolerant, but it was frustrating. It was I was like, who gets to live states you know, a couple of days away from their house and nobody does that. Right. People right, he remind me what we do when we were sad enough for you to know and I'm pretty frustrated. Oh, we push through a we survived and here we are in 2020. Getting ready to celebrate 20 years. Oh, I'm so glad we hung in there and we made it so that time away. Really, really strengthened our communication, we really became best friends just sharing and talking with each other and just really strengthened in our friendship over distance. I will tell you that is like the foundation of our relationship. And that is the thing that really, really saved us.

 

Amanda Huffman  23:16

Yeah, I would say the same thing with my husband and I, we did active duty dual military for six years. And we had to spend a lot of time talking on the phone. And so we we like to talk to each other because we always talk to each other. And like that was the only way we could connect itself. I think that that builds a good foundation. And it's it forces you to have that open communication if you're like always talking to each other. Yeah, yeah. Is there anything from when you got home from a deployment to when you transition that you want to cover before we jump into your transition story?

 

Lila Holley  23:53

Well, I was say that service members and military members are really really successful based on the support of their families. I will tell you that is a critical piece. And for me, my husband asked me to retire while I was deployed to Iraq. And so when I came back, he was he had already transitioned out of the military was a full time parent to be a full time student, and to be at home with our daughter, you know, when I finished out the rest of my career, and so I had about, I say, about seven more years, five more years. In that time, I ended up moving my and what the last five years of my career when we came out from Hawaii, I ended up moving my family four times in a five year period. And yeah, I know a lot but it was a lie. And it was a lot to ask of my family, my husband, especially I feel like cuz he supported my career because he supported me during that time and he was flexible, understanding that it was needed for me to finish out my career easily. To me and and, and I was only successful because of his. During that time I am on my right. He was he was transitioning out of out of out retirement out of the military. We moved to Hawaii and then I, after my assignment in Hawaii, I was up for branch manager for the military intelligence Warrant Officers. And that's a very competitive assignment. So I was like, it was all dependent on me taking the assignment and then being open to moving to Alexandria, Virginia where the branch was initially. And they were preparing for now. So that means that over a four year period of time, I was, in essence going to my family, were at a five year period of time. For time, I talked to my husband and he agreed, and he supported me in it and because of that I was able to identify Matt, and retire out of that position. Which again, I said is So very, very competitive position. So I was grateful for all the support of my family. I travel a lot because of my job over there. Ours were crazy over there. And I just looked back over the last seven years of my career and the things that I was able to accomplish was due in part have a spouse listen at for service member, remember to take your transition out of the military, if your family's meaning and consideration other spouses the success of your service member my husband for him to support me and to be open to move in like four times. You know, it was someplace we didn't have access. To have that support really, really put my mind at ease and it just was one less thing that I had to stress out about in an effort to stay competitive to stay patient. My job and to go after, you know, a great assignment, actually, and it's a team effort when you're in the military, and your family is a part of it. That's amazing. And I really would share with the listeners.

 

Amanda Huffman  27:11

Yeah, I think that's an important thing for people to remember that families have to make a lot of sacrifices. And it makes it so much easier when the spouse or the family is on the supportive role of the service member because it makes it easier and it's really hard to be a military spouse. I can tell you that for sure.

 

Lila Holley  27:32

I know. I know. I want to share that. I know it is tough, especially what you have the luxury of having worn the uniform. A lot of spouses have never worn a uniform and sometimes they don't understand what a significant role they play in the success of their service member. So I just wanted to share that the family is a huge element that for a lot of servicemembers that is their safe space and so for their spouses to be understanding, supportive is imperative to their success.

 

Amanda Huffman  27:58

So true. Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about your transition. So you left the military after 22 years, your husband had been out for about seven years. And now you guys are finally free from the military. So what was that transition like?

 

Lila Holley  28:14

Well, I will tell you, I went into it like everything else in my career, I was ready for transition after like 22 years was quite enough time to give to the army and I was ready to make that move to retiree. So I went into like everything else in my career with a can do attitude, like I got this chief is gonna knock it out. Like she knocked out everything else. And it wasn't it wasn't nothing like that. It was quite an emotional journey. It was very emotional, something that I really was not expecting. Yeah. And I feel like man, if somebody would have just told me that it was gonna be this way. I would have been better prepared, but it was it out. Felt these and I really wasn't expecting to feel like I missed the military. I had been missing the military you know, I felt a little lost and confused and and her and abandon like nobody's calling check in our chief no more you know, I don't have a formation to go to I just you know it is a lot of emotions that you go through when you transition out of the military and and no matter how ready you are for it. There's an emotional process, an emotional transition that you absolutely have to prepare yourself for and you have to go through and once I realized that once I learned that and I realized that the transition became a little bit smoother but it but it was a process for me to get there. So now I share that story with others. I share with them my transition story and I warned them about that emotional process of leaving the military behind. I don't care if he did three years or 33 years there's going to be some emotion because it is such a such an intense emotion. After nation into the military, that transition process is just as an IT just as intense leaving it behind.

 

Amanda Huffman  30:08

Yeah. And I think part of the like problem with transition as you like, can't explain it so that someone who's still in can understand, I've been trying to tell my husband like, you know, this is what's coming in, and he's just like, you have foreheads. I don't understand what you're talking about. Like, it's like talking to different languages. 

 

Lila Holley  30:27

And listen, I know, and I tell people all the time, I tell them, get ready because you're gonna go through, you know, the emotions and all that stuff. And they're always like, Oh, I'm so ready to retire, or when to get out. I'm so ready for this. And I lay okay. And I just sit back and I just wait and then and, you know, months later, they're like, you know what you said before you were right. Just just let it be. And when he transitions out, he's gonna be like, oh, what you were talking about, because it is hard to put it into words and i and i think For me, that was the hardest part, finding the words and trying to explain to my husband let transition before me the words to explain to express what I was feeling inside and why I was you know, having these, you know, different personality traits pop up. There were nothing like being you know, I began to lash out with anger. I was unlike me, you know, characteristically unlike me, why was he calling me out what was going on with you? I was not acting like yourself what's wrong with you? And I, as I just explained it to him, I said, I never feel like I missed the military not feel like my entity is gone. I feel like everything I've worked so hard for is dismissed, and nobody really cares. You know, just just share with them some of the things that I was going on aside of some of the emotion that I was trying to process, and during that time, he really encouraged me to talk with someone to go to the VA and talk with someone and it was something I had I had never ever done in my 22 year military career because I possessed a top secret clearance, you know, and am I, you know, you can't, can't do anything to jeopardize that. And so I did. And I held a lot of things. And because of that, I realized that I didn't have a good healthy system in place to process those emotions. And that's where I got caught up in not being able to cry when I was feeling happy and able to process the emotions that I was feeling. Once I did get that guidance from my husband and allow myself to go and seek out that resource at the VA. It helped me a lot and things that I had already started to implement for myself to move through that tough time. I was reassured that I was on the right track, and I would get through it just fine, which was comforting. You know, it's really tough for somebody to reaffirm to you that Hey, no, this is normal part of the process. That'd be okay. You're gonna make it through. This is normal, you know, so let's just figure out what you need to do to kind of work through it and get to the other side of it.

 

Amanda Huffman  33:01

Yeah, make sense. So how did you start camouflage sisters? How did that come about?

 

Lila Holley  33:07

Yeah. So that started during that transition. Like I said, I started journaling. So that was one of the things that I implemented to help me move through that, as I understood, like you said, it's hard to find the worth the time. So, for me journaling and writing things out, helped me find the words and so because of that, I understood the power of our words. In addition to that, I started asking a lot of questions I just asked other women veterans. I cannot be the only person going through this struggle, and sure enough, I was reassured by the doors were went for me that is just a normal part of the process. But in that asking of their questions to other women veterans, I learned that they have some amazing, amazing stories. And I was like, wow, you ladies Really? A lot like the lady serve, you know, for us and paved the way for us. Be able to serve today like the woman who served during the Vietnam War and a woman who served in the wak Women's Army Corps, just the things that they were able to endure and that they were able to open up for us. I just was so in awe of that and just wondered like, Where are their stories? Where are their stories being captured? Where are these stories being collected and shared the next generation of the generations to come? And they're not in any of the history books, they just are not. So I wanted to create something from that that would allow women a safe place to share their stories, a place that would respect their stories, their voices, and a place that would honor their service. And that's kind of how camouflage sisters was birthed. And I wanted to create that platform to do just that. And I feel like we've done a great job doing that. Here we are six books published with 93 women sharing their stories. It's been an amazing, amazing journey, and I'm just in awe every day of how many women find The platform of value how many women want to share their stories, I found the courage to want to share their stories on the platform. It's just been a wonderful, a wonderful journey for me.

 

Amanda Huffman  35:10

Yeah, it's, I mean, it's really cool. I've been watching you for at least two or three years watching what you guys have been doing. And for me sharing the stories of women, I had a similar thing I like started asking questions. And then I was like, people need to know this, because it's so cool. And I'm always blown away by each interview, just the stories and like you said, I do a lot of freelance writing. And I did an article about Vietnam woman and there's like, there's a lot of gaps in the information online and there's like a lot of like, Well, you know, we kind of know this but like, nobody wrote it down and no one really kept track and there's so we need to tell those stories so that people know what women did and have done and what they continue to do. So yeah,

 

Lila Holley  35:55

Absolutely. I love any and you know, in our community, a woman better As I'm following a lot of you all, and I'm so proud of the platforms that are popping up every single day, every week, every month that is allowing us allowing us to share our stories in our places. I think that's the power of it. The fact that we get to share our stories are always we're taking back ownership of our narrative, as you know, when people think of it in the military, you know, the media and the things that we've heard previously, are not so flattering. And but you know, in your line of work, and in my mind, we know that women are rocking it out every single day. They're crushing goals, and they're making history every day. So those are the three that we want folks to remember about us, Lester, and they'll hear about the general officer about the warrant officer, what about that Sergeant Major or that? Staff Sergeant did an incredible thing. Here, you know who's telling her story. So I applaud all the ladies that are women, veterans, women, veteran community are creating these platforms to share our story. I think it's a wonderful thing.

 

Amanda Huffman  37:04

Yeah. Yeah. So was there anything from your experience that we missed or that you wanted to cover that we didn't get a chance to talk about?

 

Lila Holley  37:13

No, no, the thing I would harp on in terms of transition is again, just give yourself time. I think like I said, we we move so fast and things you know, we most of fast move fast when our military career and now we're gonna want to move fast through transition. And then sometimes we'll get hung up with the emotions of it all still trying to move fast and not understanding that, Hey, I got to give myself time to slow down a little bit. I have to be kind to myself. I've given up myself and I especially have to be loving to myself, celebrate my successes and not beat myself up too much. I feel like floundering or or a little bit long to move through a certain process or a certain emotion. That's one thing that I really, really harp on, but I can't wait Sisters self care the big thing that women aren't so great at military women, we wear so many hats, we do so many things for so many others. Sometimes we leave the last breath of air we have ourselves or the last from ourselves. And I just want to remind women, especially women, our sisters in arms, take time for yourself and your transition. Give yourself time to move through that process. Actively reach out to the resources available to you, the VA is a great resource. There are some fabulous people there and really want to see us succeed as moved to this next chapter of life and be loving and kindness, time to yourself, find a network of women better as a group, whatever group, you may be count processors and maybe some other group, there are a lot of them out there to find you, a group of women understand your journey to understand what you're going through, or you can freely just express yourself and take a deep breath and just get out with and they'll understand what you're talking about what you're going through. I think that is moving in. And I think, you know, in the military, a lot of times as you're moving up the rank structure, a lot of times you pay yourself a lot. I know I was moved further further up to make structure. there just weren't a lot of women around me for mentorship or just camaraderie that just weren't there. And so this transition, there's so many of us who have already gone before you met some of them. You don't have to do it alone, you absolutely do not have to transition and push through that emotional process by yourself. So just remember that that's the main thing I would like for the listeners to take away.

 

Amanda Huffman  39:32

Yeah, that's really good advice. And I for a long time, I just kind of tried to move forward and not involved and it's through getting involved and getting to know other women veterans and getting connected with them. That's really helped me move into the next stage, which I mean, I transitioned six years ago and I still feel like just in the last year, I've transitioned like out my life is like I feel a lot better now.

 

Lila Holley  40:00

If you need it, I tell people to take a good three to five years fully transition and finally feel like oh, this is what I'm supposed to be now this is the new line or this is the new Amanda but yet it does take time. And it's okay to take that time. You know what I mean? So just don't put too much pressure on yourself and make sure you with other women who have gone before you that you can get that support that you need to make it.

 

Amanda Huffman  40:24

Yeah, and there's like this really cool connection you have with other women veterans. It's like you're Oh, you're a veteran best friends forever.

 

Lila Holley  40:34

After you are absolutely right. Oh, man. And when we get together, there's not a stranger in the room. We are elite. We got similarities. We're more similar than different. You know what, once we start telling our stories that you're absolutely right, not a stranger.

 

Amanda Huffman  40:50

Yeah, I love it. All right. So I have one last question for you. And it's what advice would you give to young women who are looking to join the military?

 

Lila Holley  40:58

Well, I would definitely say It is a great career option for young women. I absolutely believe that it will pull things out of you that you know you probably don't even know exists in you, it will pull that leader out of you a strength that you possess out of new organizational skills like you never thought you had. Multitasking skills, you know, all that stuff. I still think the military is a great career option for young women. If it's something that you really seriously want to pursue, ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions and go after the job that you truly want. Speak to other women who have served or who are currently serving if you have access to them, but if not ask your recruiter questions and and no question is too stupid with only stupid question is one that you don't have. So ask questions and make sure you get all your questions answered before you sign on the dotted line but it is definitely a great career choice. There are so many options Today, even from the time I was in and got and transitioned out, there are so many more opportunities for young ladies today. And I'm so excited over here on the retiree sideline, cheering you ladies on breaking these barriers and open up doors for generations to come. But it is definitely a great career option for young ladies. It's something that if I support in any way, shape or form, I would still continue to offer my services to young ladies who are interested in joining the military.

 

Amanda Huffman  42:29

And so if you listen to the podcast radio, you know that if you are looking to join the military and you want to find someone who's not a recruiter to talk to, you can always send me an email or find me on LinkedIn or any social media platform and I'll connect you with someone because it's it's not hard for me to find a woman veteran and the career field and the branch that you want to join. So it's easy it really it's not hard, it's really close, like I'll do it and so that's I just put up this Note on LinkedIn, I'm looking for this. And I get like 100 responses and so you shouldn't feel bad. Like, the only bad question is the question you don't ask. And we're like, happy to support you. And even if like us supporting you means that you decide that the military is not for you. That's okay, too. We want to make whatever the right choices for you and support you in that.

 

Lila Holley  43:19

Yeah, absolutely. Just make just make an informed decision. And like Amanda said, if you decided it's not for you, at the end of the day, then at least you you did your due diligence and ask the right questions for you for your particular situation. And we're able to make a smart decision based off of your your situation.

 

Amanda Huffman  43:36

Yeah, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to be on the podcast. I really love what you're doing. I love that you're sharing stories of women and that we can reach more women through sharing more stories in different formats and different platforms. And so it's really cool to get to connect with you one on one and be able to have you as a guest.

 

Lila Holley  43:56

Thank you so much, Amanda, thank you so much for having me. And also congratulations to you and keep up this great platform that you're building for us to share our stories. I'm so excited to watch you and allof you as well. 

 

Amanda Huffman  44:10

Thank you. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Women of the military Podcast. Do you love all things Women in the Military Podcast become a subscriber so you never miss an episode and consider leaving a review. It really helps people find the podcast and helps the podcast to grow. Are you still listening? You could be a part of the mission of telling the stories of military women by joining me on patreon@patreon.com slash women of the military or you can order my book Women in the Military on Amazon. Every dollar helps to continue the work I am doing. Are you a business owner? Do you want to get your product or service in front of the Women of the Military Podcast audience get in touch with a Woman of the Military Podcast team to learn more all the links on how you can support women in the military podcasts are located in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and for your support.