Kia never wanted to join the military. But her mom said they didn’t have money for college and it would give Kia a firm foundation for her life. She agreed to join the military, but she did not follow her mother’s recommendation to join the Army and instead enlisted in the Navy.
This episode is sponsored by Ashleigh Magee Coaching. you'd like to learn more, send Ashleigh an email to admin@AshleighMaGee.com
This episode is sponsored by Insure the Heroes. Call Melissa at 1-844-514-LIFE or head over to her website to get a free quote today.
Kia is the creator and host of The Female Veterans Podcast. She served as a Naval Hospital Corpsman from 1994 to 1999 and inactive reserve from 1999 to 2001. She has an MBA in Finance and Accounting. Currently, she is working on founding Artemisia with the mission of helping homeless female veterans.
Kia never wanted to join the military. But her mom said they didn’t have money for college and it would give Kia a firm foundation for her life. She agreed to join the military, but she did not follow her mother’s recommendation to join the Army and instead enlisted in the Navy.
She went to Naval Station Great Lakes for boot camp and was one of the first integrated companies that included both men and women. She enjoyed her time at boot camp she grew up in a strict household and actually felt more freedom within the constraints of bootcamp and she thrived on the structure. Her tech school was also at Naval Station Great Lakes. She met two women and they hoped they could be stationed together for their first assignment so instead of picking California or Hawaii they all three tried to stay at Naval Station Great Lakes. Two out of three women were able to stay there. They never talked to the third woman as the lost communication when she moved.
She said her time in the military was great up until the day it wasn’t. There were “shenanigans” that happened that colored her experience. She joined at nineteen and had an idealistic view of the world. Her first job was great. She was briefing new students for A-School and C-School and loved it. But her roommate began to change over the months and she was worried about the changes happening. She finally got her to confide in her that she was being harassed at work by a male service member. No one wanted to help. Eventually she attempted suicide and then they finally moved her to a new office where she began to thrive, but she had already started the process to get out of the Navy.
Kia also decided to leave the military when her enlistment was up. She was married and she and her husband moved to Arizona for a year, but she didn’t like it. She began working in the corporate world after leaving in the military and initially had success. But a few years later she found herself jobless, penniless and about to be homeless by her husband. She was able to get help from others and didn’t end up being homeless, but this experience brought her back to the military community and changed her for the better.
Today she helps other veterans and she started a podcast to help share the stories of military women. It is called The Female Veteran Podcast there she shares the good and the bad of military life from the perspective of the women she interviews on the podcast. It is exciting to see the work she is doing and you should go check out her podcast today!
She says the military did give her a firm foundation and she recommends doing your research if you are considering joining the military. Check out the Reserve Officer Training Corps programs or other officer programs and talk to other women and hear their experiences on both the Women of the Military and The Female Veteran Podcast.
Connect with Kia:
The Female Veteran Podcast Website
The Female Veteran Podcast on Anchor
The Female Veteran Podcast on Apple
Surviving Military Sexual Trauma in the Navy – Episode 26
Giving Back After Service to Find Healing – Episode 56
Seeing the World with the US Navy – Episode 9
Amanda Huffman 00:00
Welcome to the women of the military podcast this week. My guest is Kia Baker. She is the creator and host of the female veteran podcast. She served as a Naval Hospital Corpsman from 1994 to 1999, and then active reserves from 1999 to 2001. She has an MBA in finance and accounting. Currently, she is working on founding Artemisia, the mission of helping homeless female veterans. This is another great episode and I'm so excited for the work that he is doing to help get the word out about what women have done and are doing for the military. So, you should go check her podcast out after you listen to this great episode. So, let's get started. You're listening to the women of the military podcast where we share the stories of female servicemembers and how the military touch their lives. I'm your host, military veteran military spouse and mom, Amanda Huffman. My goal is to find the heart of the story. and uncover issues 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. Welcome to the show Kia. I'm excited to do this interview.
Kia Baker 01:21
Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.
Amanda Huffman 01:25
So, let's dive in with Why did you decide to join the Navy?
Kia Baker 01:29
Okay, so I didn't really want to join the military. I didn't really it wasn't really my decision. My mother was in love with army and I had an aunt who actually retired from the army and my older brother served eight years in Korea. So, my mother's belief was that to have a firm foundation in life, it required you to have military service. She wanted to go so bad it was her dream and she had kids young. And finally, when her kids were old enough for her to feel comfortable leaving them with a relative, she decided to go to boot camp but the very last year, she was Eligible because of her age, she was training for boot camp. And then unfortunately, she got pregnant. Well, fortunately for me, I got an amazing little brother, but she didn't get to leave for Barney. So, when I came around 18 actually, maybe a little before then I was deciding what colleges I wanted to go to. I was in a private school in Hershey pa called Milton Hershey School, and everyone was deciding what colleges they wanted to go to. And so, I went to my mother and said, Okay, it's time for me to decide what colleges I want to go to. I think this was maybe even 10th grade sophomore year. And she said, you know, we really don't have money for that. And anyway, what's more important is that you go to the military, and you're going to go to the army and as the dutiful child that I was I said, okay, but as I got 1718 you know, you got a little bit more rebellious, you want to do your own thing. And I said, Well, okay, I'm going to go to the military, but I'm going to choose which branch I want to go into, and I contemplated going ROTC, but when I met with my recruiter, he kind of talked me out of it. He sort of really pushed the enlisted side of things, and I think that's just because he'd love to be enlisted, really. So, I met with the Air Force recruiter and I met with a Navy recruiter because I narrowed it down. And I just ended up going with the Navy because it seemed like they were having more fun, according to what the recruiter explained to me and he really sold the idea of seeing the world and not having to pay for it, you know, and going to college and not having to pay for it. And, and also the friendships and the connections that you make in the military. He really sold that and it seemed like so much fun. Yeah, she talked about how much fun he had, you know, often the hours and the connections he made and it sounded like something that I really wanted to experience. I was already used to a very strict and structured lifestyle from private school. So, it seemed like it would be an easy transition. And off I went to boot camp to Chicago, Illinois to serve in the Navy because I felt like it was going to be not only fun, but I believed my mother I believe that it was going to be a firm foundation to begin life even if I didn't have the goal of retirement, which I didn't I was actually really happy. Like anyways, hippie grunted Girl of the 90s. And I was, you know, the last person that you would everyone was shocked when I said that I was going through from high school to military, they could not believe it because it was so different than my personality to just, you know, go and be in an organization such as the armed forces, so, so peace, love and you know, everything like that. So, sort of almost even antiestablishment and very idealistic. So it was, it was a very different world that I was going into then people had expected of me and my only dream had really been to go to college. I just wanted to have the college experience on a small-town campus and beautiful buildings and reading books and all of that. And I realized once I got in to the military, that it probably was for the best that I didn't go straight from private school after nine years being there in this tight structure to having so much freedom in college like that. It was probably best for me to go into the military and have some structure
Amanda Huffman 04:59
that's really interesting. that you didn't have a choice and then they're like, this is why you're going to do and you're like, Okay, yeah,
Kia Baker 05:07
but I, I chose the Navy.
Amanda Huffman 05:09
Yeah, I like that you were like, I have joined the military. That's fine. I'm going to pick the branch that works for me. But so, the recruiter told you about ROTC or How did you know?
Kia Baker 05:18
Yeah, well, he discussed it with me because I asked about it. My college guidance counselor, like the school guidance counselor, when they were presenting to me my options for after high school. They did mention ROTC because I was like, I have to go to the military. You know, and they were like, well, you go ROTC, and it works like this. And then I said, Okay, and then I brought it up to the recruiter, and he was like, with ROTC, you're going to owe them eight years of your life after you go to college. And that was like the big thing to me, which is really funny because I ultimately, I did eight years but at the time, like a 17-year-old girl, I thought, oh my god, eight years. Seems like such a long time to a girl who doesn't really want to go to the military, you know? Oh,
Amanda Huffman 06:06
yeah. And it's like four years of ROTC that you do during college and then four years duty and then four years in active murder. And so yeah, so it's really like 12 years, because it's a big deal. So that makes sense. You decided to go into the Navy. Where did you said you went to Chicago for boot camp?
Kia Baker 06:27
I did. I went to Naval Training Center, Great Lakes.
Amanda Huffman 06:30
And what was that experience like to go from? Well, you were already in like, private kind of a rigid structure. Was the Navy similar or was it a totally different experience?
Kia Baker 06:41
Yes, and no, I mean, I knew how to clean I knew how to make a bed, and I knew how to keep my mouth shut and follow instructions. So, I was prepared. Actually, I did get quite a lot of freedom. I feel it to have more freedom in the Navy than private school had and boots. Camp Actually, my boot camp experience was really, really interesting. I was in an integrated company. So, we didn't have a brother company. We actually had guys in our company. And we were part of a special company that we didn't do like the mess hall week. We didn't we didn't do that we actually maintained the drill Hall and then at every graduation, we sort of prepared the officers celebration that like the reception that they have, after graduations are done. So, I was in charge of making Kool Aid and serving Kool aid to the officers. Every graduation that happened while I was in boot camp.
Amanda Huffman 07:47
Was that a new thing? They were trying or they were integrating males and females together.
Kia Baker 07:52
Yeah, we were one of the first ones I don't think we were the first one but we were in the first few that are was doing that and apparently, I was specially selected for that they held me aside. I remember I got there, I had to take a train from Pennsylvania and I just walked into the base and said, Hey, I'm reporting for boot camp. And they were like, okay, and they held me aside until they had all the people they wanted for this company. So, I spent a day in like a holding like quarters until four o'clock in the morning, the next day, then they were like, okay, you're ready, come on. And so, then I had the whole boot camp experience, which I actually really loved. I met some amazing girls there. I wish that I kept in touch with some of them. I definitely had some experiences there that I felt bonded me with them. And I was really good at shining boots. So, the girls would all be like, we shine my boots and we'd like sort of, I don't know, trade services, and oh, hey, and we help each other out. We really leaned on each other, but I do Definitely remember the first couple days and it really hitting me of like what I was in for when, you know, it was like, you know, pump and dump, you know, two minutes for like 100 girls to go to the bathroom or like no, no doors on the stalls in the bathroom. That was like really shocking to me for some reason, when I first saw it, and the group showers were just, I mean, and I grew up in private school where we had showers at the same time, but there was a room full of showers and each one was individual. This was like, you know, the open the open baby shower. And that to me was like really uncomfortable at first, but you know, you get used to it, and then it's like nothing by the end of that.
Amanda Huffman 09:43
You'll also like have no time like the first week. So you're like, I just guess I have to do it and then after that you used to but I remember the same thing. Like I was like, Ah, this is kind of awkward. It's just like an open Bay and it's a little bit different. So where did you go after you finish boot camp,
Kia Baker 10:02
so, I went to the training school to a school at Great Lakes. So, they had just built a new barracks for hospital corpsman. And Great Lakes is huge. Now it's the only training base for boot camp. But it is actually or at the time, I don't know if it is now but it was actually sort of like three bases like the boot camp side had two sides to it. And then there was the Naval Hospital. And on the other side of the base from the Naval Hospital was where they did all that a schools and C schools for everybody else that weren't corpsman. So, we were sort of separated in that way. And we had different privileges than the other a school and C school students. So, it was different like we could after as soon as class was over, you could get into civilian clothes and the other side, they had to stay in uniform. That was one of the biggest differences. I think it was a little bit more Relax in our barracks was brand new and it was gorgeous. And I had a really cool roommate. Her name was Joe backhand. I'll never forget her. She was amazing. Just a really cool girl. I loved a school. I had great instructors, and I really loved the experience of it.
Amanda Huffman 11:16
That's awesome. So how long was you’re A-school?
Kia Baker 11:21
I graduated in May. So, it was it was a little bit less than four months, I think. And then I became staff on you know, when I put my dream sheet in, I actually requested Great Lakes as where I was going to be stationed because I'd grown really close to two girls in my class and one I went to boot camp with and the other one she was in boot camp the same time with us but we saw we saw her in passing. She was in a different company. She ended up in my class so we were we had become like three musketeers were inseparable and we thought okay, well the room Is that Great Lakes is the strictest space and no one wants to come here. So maybe if we choose to stay on this space, we might have a shot of staying together because everyone wants to go to Hawaii in San Diego and overseas and, you know, we're like if we pick this space, you know, we will have a chance of you know, because you know that like when you go into the military, you often just lose people. We're trying to avoid that
Amanda Huffman 12:24
Especially in the 90s when you know, there was no Facebook There was no internet really
Kia Baker 12:29
No, no, not that. No, I mean there was no internet at least not the way we knew it. I mean, there definitely computers and all of that good stuff, but not the way it is now. I remember hot meal now and the high school friend of mine on hot meal that I really loved. didn't miss but yeah, it was just coming out. And there were no cell phones. I remember having like a house phone in my barracks room. You know, and I just, you know, it was that the era was the time Yeah, even with social media. It's So hard to stay in touch. So, without social media, it makes it just another player that's trying to stay connected.
Amanda Huffman 13:15
So were you guys successful? Were you able all stay there?
Kia Baker 13:20
Two out of three read, she ended up going to Camp Pendleton. And so she was she was she was happy we were happy for her because she got California like against her will. But we were like, oh my gosh, you know that's still wonderful but we're going to miss you and honestly never heard from her again. I think maybe one time after that. But Sean Lieber Susanna, she and I actually, oh my gosh, we did. We were successful. We became roommates in the barracks as staff and until she ended up getting out, unfortunately, pretty successful for two of us. And then we became staff on the base and I got stationed at branch medical clinic to 237 and she went over to 1523. And that was on the bootcamp side for in processing and we just started our lives of staff
Amanda Huffman 14:04
and so, did you guys live in the dorms?
Kia Baker 14:06
Yeah, we were we were roommates in the female barracks
Amanda Huffman 14:09
you were in for five years?
Kia Baker 14:12
Five years active. Yeah.
Amanda Huffman 14:14
Did you move around besides or is that where you were the whole time?
Kia Baker 14:18
I was there the whole time because you know, Bill Clinton was president at the time and you know, defense spending was reduced. And I was told when it came up time for me to request you know, new orders that it was in the best interest of the government that I remain where I was really okay but what are you going to do your government properly you can do it in the best interest of the government you're going to do it so but it was cool though, because I really fell in love with Chicago. Chicago was only 30 minutes away driving you know, and there was a metro so you could take the train if you didn't have a car can you go to explore and I will say I spent a lot of time in Chicago. While I was stationed there, in fact, I lived there for 12 years after I got out.
Amanda Huffman 15:05
Oh, wow. So, you just found a place that you loved and it worked out, but they were like, you can't move.
Kia Baker 15:11
Yeah, actually worked out for me that they were like, Hey, you can't you can't go anywhere. But I was really disappointed at the time, though, because I joined the Navy because I thought I was going to go on a ship and go around the world, right? They were just letting girls on ships. So, I thought, Okay, well, I'm going to go on a carrier. It's going to be weird, but it's going to be an experience. Mm hm. And I'm going to get to go and see everything. And then, but that didn't happen at all. I saw Chicago, I went to the desert Palm Springs for a field training exercise. And that's all I did.
Amanda Huffman 15:45
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Amanda Huffman 17:17
Let's get back to the show. So, did you face any challenges while you were serving in the military?
Kia Baker 17:23
Well, I like to tell people that my military experience was amazing until the day it wasn't. And I had a dark period of time while I was serving, I would say, I'm going to use a word that my friend from the American Heritage podcast, Seth breeze said when I interviewed him, he said, shenanigans, I will say that there were some shenanigans that I witnessed and even got into, so to speak while I was serving, and it definitely had an impact on my career.
Amanda Huffman 18:02
And so, did those happen near the end of your time so that when it was time to re-enlist you decided to leave? Or was it something that happened pretty early on?
Kia Baker 18:14
I would say it started really early on. I will say that from the time I went into the military, I never intended to make it a career. It was never an option. For me. It was a foundation to launch my career. I always intended to go to college, which I did eventually do, went and got my master's, but I had intended to just be in for five years and get out and then that was going to form the basis for my future. And it did. However, from the time I got in, I was really idealistic, and I am an eternally positive person even to this day, but when I went in as a young 19 year old girl for the first time on my own, I believed that the world worked a certain way. Unlike I will say I wasn't a woke. And so, I sort of was living this dream of like, you know, there weren't a lot of bad people, you know, there were I was good things happen to good people. If you're not doing anything wrong, you won't get in trouble. You know, just smile and be a good person and everything will work out for you. And that's not always the case. So when I got into the military and my roommate and I became staff, one of the first things that happened that I found to be challenging was what happened to her I went to a clinic I was my first job was in medical records, which was really cool. I actually got to give orientation to all the A-school and C-school students that were just coming on to the base from boot camp. And I gave them like this medical orientation a lecture for an hour and it was really fun. It was really cool. It's My first time getting to speak in front of groups of people and I loved it. And so, I was really happy at my job but my roommate was not so lucky. And I would say over the course we became staff in May and I would say over the course of the summer I began to notice changes in her she had been you know, happy go lucky, bubbly, super, super sweet to a fault like she was from Oregon. She was just like this beautiful sweet soul, and very sensitive. I'm definitely struggled with some self-esteem issues like all of us do when we're young and we're still figuring ourselves out. But while most of us do, and then I noticed that she can to get worse with her insecurities. She started to become withdrawn. She began to get moody. She didn't want to go to work. She started drinking a lot. We were under age, so that was kind of bad. She didn't want to go out. She didn't you know, I think I was concerned about her and I kept saying hey, you know, it got to a point like probably about July that I was like hey what is going on with you? You don't want like you're so different like we used to work out together we used to do everything together and she just wanted to be in her bed all the time. Like sometimes got home from work to the next day go to work should just be in bed all the time. That's how it progressed. And so I finally got her to confide in me like what is going on? And it turned out that there was a guy in her clinic who was harassing her and he was relentless. And it started kind of slowly with just like stupid jokes. And it just got worse and worse and worse and worse to learn. He was like commenting about like her hair the way she looked like telling her she was stupid like telling her and then and then like the next minute asking her out and when we're going to have I like, it was just this weird combination of like flattery and abuse. And so she when she finally poured it all out to me, I was like, completely floored, like, I had no idea that that could even happen. That's how innocent my mind frame was like I didn't, I knew that it was sexual harassment cuz we had training on it going through boot camp, but I'd never really experienced it in a way that she was experiencing it. And my experience at my clinic was so much happier, and so different. So naturally, me being the person that I am, I was like, Oh, my God, well, we have to do something about this. This just can't go on. Like, this is so terrible, obviously, you know, we're going to report it, and the government, then Navy is going to do something about it, because that's what's right. What is right and is supposed to happen happens, right. That is how I believed as a 19-year-old girl, and so she didn't want to report it. And so, I kind of pushed her. I pushed her for two more months. Because I mean, it was like getting she was getting really dark and I was becoming more and more insistent that Listen, I know this is your story to tell, but this is not right. Like you are going to have to do something or I am and this guy was like really kind of like he had like a bunch of DUIs. I think he maybe even killed a guy in his car drunk driving, like just really not. And he was like, made jokes about it, like that kind of guy. And so just really an unsavory person, which I didn't expect to come across those in the military, either that again, naive and idealistic. And so, we ended up finally she reported it to her supervisor, this guy who did legitimately nothing and who was actually annoyed that she even bothered him with it, but I reported it to. I reported it to my chief and I had a new chief at the time. And I think this was a few months later, by the time we she finally agreed to report it. had been going on probably for like five or six months by then. And my chief was like, well, we're going to look into it, we're going to see what we can do. And I said, Listen, I don't want to make waves. I'm really uncomfortable even having to, like, you know, sell somebody out, like tell someone, you know, but maybe a solution could be she just gets moved out to that clinic like I was. So, like, I was really meek as a person at the time. And so, it was a huge deal for me. I like was so angry that it propelled me to make to come out of my natural meekness to go forward and talk to the chief who is new and who I was intimidated by. Because I mean, and so, but he was really nice about the situation and I thought, you know, maybe you know, I don't want to make waves but which is really in retrospect, I'm like, Girl, you should have been making waves. This is wrong. But at the time, I was just trying to assembly and I was trying to just, you know, be a part of that. community and I didn't want to make get anybody in trouble per se. I just wanted it to stop. And I, I spoke to him and told him, could we just move her? Do you think we could just move her to another clinic? You know, because she's so depressed and I'm getting concerned about her mental state, really? And he was like, Well, you know, we'll see what we can do. And then that went on of me checking back with him every couple of weeks as nothing was being done about it. And then eventually, I sort of had enough it was like maybe another two three months had gone by and I guess she ended up getting I think she got reprimanded for like her like not like a write up but she got told, you know, don't keep bringing this up in no uncertain terms like by her supervisor, you know, and I then went to my Chief. Finally, like, what is can we move her like what can be done and I was told, you know, he had taken care of it as best as he could, and that no, she was not going to be moved because the government needed her in that clinic song. I remember the day that I came home with that that news and she was there and she was so demoralized. Like she was like a shell of her herself. And we had both gotten the news that like nothing was going to happen by our up our chain of command like so we tried to go up the chain of command and I said, Well, listen, I remember being taught it, she was crying, she was upset. And I said, I remember being taught, you know, that if your chain of command doesn't respond, go above them go to the next person in the chain. I was like, let's go to the hospital. Let's go. Let's take it up to the next person. We went to our clinics now let's take it further. And she said no. She said, No, I don't I don't want to do this. I'm going to get in trouble. She's like, I don't want to get in trouble. And I don't I don't want to deal with this anymore. I don't want to do it. And I said, No, we got to keep fighting. You know, you got it. You can't just take this. This is wrong, you know? And she said, No, I know. I don't want to do it. I don't want to do it anymore. Don't push me to do it. I don't Want To do this you can't you This is my problem. And I was like really hurt, because I was just trying to help but she was very angry and I and I understand now, but I was so disappointed like, and that was like my wake-up call. That was the first of many that happened when I was serving that good things don't always happen to good people; bad things can happen. People can get away with doing awful things. And sometimes, you know, life just isn't fair. And so that's kind of how that happened. And she actually what happened with her is that she actually ended up getting into a horrible relationship to try to keep her safe from the guy that caused her even more trouble. And when that broke up, she ended up getting the harassment started again with the guy, the original guy, and she ended up trying to commit suicide. And then the Navy moved her out of that clinic and she began to thrive, but by then it was too late because they were processing her out
Amanda Huffman 27:59
And it's on unfortunate, because you could see that was where it was going and you tried to do something and they were like, no, that's fine. And then when they tried to commit suicide they said, "Oh, this might be a problem." You're like I told you a long time ago.
Kia Baker 28:16
Yeah. And then she ended up getting out after I think, two and a half years, but she was finally happy. Right. So that's something that I see even in when I talk to women on my show is when I hear the stories that are unpleasant and heartbreaking that, you know, if, if it was handled just differently, they might have had a career she would have had a career she wanted, she was one of those people that wanted to be in for 20 years.
Amanda Huffman 28:46
And hopefully things are changing with like the #metoo movement and just the way the military is changing. Overall, because yeah, I hear stories that are heartbreaking online podcast, too. And it's just, it's really sad. And it's I mean; the only good part was that you were there and trying to do something and you were
Kia Baker 29:09
Oh yeah, I was I was incensed. I was outraged I couldn't I couldn't like it didn't compute in my brain. I was like, how was this happening? This is the United States Navy. We're the greatest country in the world were like the most modern white but up but at the same time, I can understand because like, you're in this for this historically male dominated culture, and they are still adapting at that. Even now, I think to women's issues, and things that we are different and have to go through, but even more so then, and maybe even now, it was more about sort of assimilating and becoming part of the boys’ club, which is why I was so hesitant. I didn't want to make waves I didn't want to get in trouble but my adults off now it's like that guy should have fried for that. Like he should have gone to the brig or gotten kicked out or like something bad deservingly bad should have happened to him, but Back then I was like, I don't want to make waves. Can we just move her can just get her out? I mean, like, nothing needs to happen to him. But like, let's just leave her.
Amanda Huffman 30:08
You knew that you were only going to do your five years so and it was time to transition. What was it like to transition out of the military after all the ups and downs that you went through?
Kia Baker 30:18
Oh, yeah. I mean, well, during my time of serving, I had a lot of crazy experiences on that base and shenanigans. And you know, I had a lot of fun too. I was very lucky. I had guy friends that always had my back. I was one of those girls that always hung out with the boys and I had a few girlfriends and so I had a lot of really good times while I was in and I actually ended up getting married. Yeah, I got my first husband, it was I got I got married when I was 25 and 24, something like that young. So, when I transitioned out, I was he was already out So he had been my dependent for a while and then we decided that we were going to move to Arizona for a year. Once I got out, I wanted to see something different. And so, we did that, but I didn't love it. I love the summers was too hot. So, I moved back to Chicago. And when I left the military, I will say I, during my time in I transition into pharmacy, OJT, and I was thinking about going to pharmacy school, but I learned everything on the job, and I was performing like a pharmacist, all the responsibilities, and I loved it so much. But when I was about to get out, I started to discover that in the civilian world, pharmacy was a lot different and I couldn't do what I had done. I would need to go to pharmacy school, so I felt like a huge waste of money to go learn something I've been doing for the last three years. So, I decided I was going to go try my luck at corporate because I always wanted to be a career girl like a business woman. So, I thought, Okay, I'm going to go slay the corporate world and then get out of the military, I'm going to go to school, I'm going to get a job. I have all these like great skills, and having the Navy on my resume initially was amazing. In I always had good luck landing good jobs, initially out of the military and learned lots of office skills so that I could work my way up. And initially, it was really, really good. And then about three years out of the military, I found myself jobless, about to be homeless and left penniless by my husband of five years. So that's when the transition, that's when I began to realize that I was affected and I was having a difficult transition out because a lot of the jobs that I had taken in Corporate I felt a moral conflict with the way they were doing their business or running the company, or I mean, I just had a knack for picking the worst companies to work for and didn't love the corporate culture of the time. It's not like how it is now where, you know, there's like nap pods and yoga classes and stuff like that was very different. And I missed the camaraderie. Like as someone who always envisioned themselves out of the military. It's funny because I missed it. So, and that was such a shock too. I really missed just the people and the sense of family that I had while I was in.
Amanda Huffman 33:41
Yeah, so that was kind of an unexpected feeling that you've had because you're like, I'm just going to do my time and then move on and it won't bother. It won't affect me again. But there you are. So, did you end up being homeless? Is that part of why you are founding your company? Is that where that passion comes from?
Kia Baker 34:02
Part of it. Yes, I did not end up homeless, I was lucky, I was very lucky that I had people that helped me, which is why I feel like it's important to give back and help others. And in fact, the people that helped me, so inspired me that at the time, I started learning about, you know, programs and for veterans and things like that. And as I learned about them, I would come across other veterans that were struggling, and I would help them and that started 20 years ago, like just it wasn't something I volunteer, like I would just come across a veteran in life, I'm like, Look, the universe, put them in my path, and I would end up helping them and, you know, like, Here, let me help you get your medical benefits or this is how you fall for disability or take your bed, you know, or things like that. It just, you know, being in their light and it might only be in their life for a few weeks or a few months or a few years, but whatever time that I was meant to be in their life or I would be there for two Help them in whatever way that I could. And that's just been going on for my whole life. I feel like and that's part of why I'm founding this not for profit to help homeless female veterans because I believe that a no one that has served this country should live without their basic needs being met. And I also believe that no one especially people who have deployed should not come home to being homeless. It To me that's like, morally abhorrent. It's just horrible.
Amanda Huffman 35:33
I agree. And that's awesome that you're doing stuff for homeless veterans, female veterans because I know they are the highest in the homeless category found that veterans giving back to other veterans is something that is in us that people like we need to do. We don't even know why but it's like when we're helping other veterans. It feels something that they put in us here and I don't know, it's really strange.
Kia Baker 36:01
And I also find to speak to that this a little bit further, that it's really cathartic for, especially for a veteran, if you if you're in a healing process, you've experienced the trauma while serving or PTSD, or you live with chronic pain, or there's just some something that you're healing within yourself. For some reason, it seems I mean, I don't know, there's been a study done on this, but from my experiences, and what I've seen over these last 20 years is that that's so healing to the veteran who's healing is to help another veteran and a lot of times veterans won't talk to like therapist or, you know, civilian, they feel like civilians don't understand which a lot of times they don't sometimes spouses don't understand sometimes, you know, family members who haven't served but another veteran understands and there's just this brotherhood and sisterhood amongst us that no matter when you serve, no matter how old you are, for the most part, like there's just a bond because it's special and unique that we all serve, no matter how long You served for whether it was a year or whether it was 25 years. You know, there's just that understanding and that kinship
Amanda Huffman 37:07
And the weird part for me was like I ran away from veteran community because I think that's a normal part of the process too. And now that I found it, I feel so much happier. And the podcast is my therapy that I'm going through for PTSD, because it's the most healing thing I've found to talk to other women about their military experiences, and it brings healing to me and healing to them. And I know you understand because you do the same thing. So yeah,
Kia Baker 37:33
I do. I do. And especially for me, too. I love to hear both the good and the bad experiences because while I did not have the worst experience, and I witnessed some, the one I shared with you is just one of the things that I witnessed while I was serving that I felt was just horrible. And like you I ran away from all things military, those first three years where I was like plunged into corporate America. Those years were the ones Where I was like so antiestablishment I was not only running from the military and other veterans I was running from the government itself I was really far left and I don't even know that that was a thing then and I want to actually want to put that title on it I would just was like very out there like so against any sort of authority and governing of my own life because being property had made me feel subhuman in some way so not very cool. So, I was very away from it. But you know, as soon as I went through those hardships and I was able to come through it and get on my feet and start going, Okay, I'm a veteran I because I left the military sick. Also, I live with I live with PTSD. I live with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and Epstein bar virus, which means I get mono. I haven't had it in five years. Thank you, universe, but I'm thinking God, whoever but I get mono recurrent. And when if you've ever had mono, then you know that it's like three months of being like near death, flu like symptoms misery type, like you can't do anything you can hardly take care of yourself. And that's horrible on top of the chronic pain that I have with fibromyalgia, which is fairly managed at this time. And then the chronic fatigue, which means on top of all of those things that I wake up, like dead, like I'm like a legit living zombie. I've formulated self-care for myself, that means I can, you know, live life almost to the fullest but there are times where I'm so ill and so on. Well, that I can't take care of myself and my family has to help me so I left the military with that too. And all of those things contributed to me like running and then as soon as I started to get help and realize, okay, I'm a disabled veteran, what do I need to do? And I started learning and giving back to other veterans what I'd learned each step as I learned something more it really it heals. It began to heal me. And the final part of that healing process is the podcast. Like you were saying,
Amanda Huffman 40:06
That's really cool. Let's talk a little bit about your podcast and what you're doing and why you started it.
Kia Baker 40:15
So how the female veterans podcast came about was I decided that I wanted to give back to the female veteran community. It was the thing that I was most passionate about. And I decided that I was going to reenter the workforce. I did not know how my kids are older now. They've been my priority. I'd been a stay at home mom for 13 years. And I know that my kids are a bit older, and my homeschool child is transitioning to go back to school because he's going to go to high school next year, and I want him to kind of have that experience. So, if it works, he might just come right back home. Who knows since I have more free time my babies in preschool, I wanted to do something and I'm the most passionate about female veterans and our experiences. And I believe that there's kind of almost a culture of silence around our particular stories, like people just don't know what happens to women in the military. They know they go in. They come out what happens. And I was actually talking with a friend of a business mentor of mine, she owns Eris, and it's at era sisters calm. It's an amazing organization that empowers women of all kinds to share their stories. And she filmed a story on me and we became friends and I'm also writing a book, a fictional story based on my experiences in the military, but it's fiction. And we were talking about that, and we were talking about what else I could do. And while we were in LA, we met in LA, from St. Louis, and her family lives there. So, it was closer for us to meet. I live in Washington, and we were like, let's go do something for female veterans today, because it's all she is. She's like, What? You know what we're talking about veterans. Let's go do something for him. I'm like, you Let's go to the went to the vet center in Culver City and we were talking to the outreach coordinator, this wonderful woman named Sharon. And she told me you know, what, if you really want to do something for female veterans, you know, it's great that you want to pass out food or something she's like, but they need a voice. Give them a voice. That's what's really needed. She's like, do you know that women veterans at our facility, they don't get donations, they, you know, they seldom get clothes or shoes, or boots or anything that we can pass out. When we do our outreach work, they have to take what's left after the men and I like shed tears because I was just so like, struck by how she said it and in what she was saying, and I thought you have to do something. And then my whole life changed in that moment, because from there, then I joined the London real and I took a speaking course with Brian rose. It's at London real.tv or you can find him on YouTube at London. Real are Instagram and twitter at London real. It's an amazing program. And I took that program and then while I was taking that program to learn how to speak, because I envision a TED talk in the future, just putting it in the universe, and, and so I envisioned that because I want to talk about female veterans issues to anyone who will listen. And while I was doing that, I saw that he was offering a broadcasting course. And so, I took that and that's where I really developed the female veterans podcast and built it and put it out and the response has been really amazing. I love female veterans. I did the podcast because I wanted to go hand in hand with Artemisia, which has two missions. The mission is to build shelters for female veterans to get them off the streets and rehabilitate them to get them back in into life, living a life that they can thrive in. And the second mission is to provide grants for disabled veterans who want to seek alternative treatments for medication and who can't afford it, because a lot of these new cutting-edge alternative treatments are super expensive, but they're needed and they work. The studies are showing that they're working. So, I really want to just help my sisters.
Amanda Huffman 44:19
That's awesome. I'm so excited. A friend of mine told me about your podcast. And I was like, Yes, I'm not the only one because like you said, it's a very big need. And I've I'm recording this in October, and it won't go live until April because that's how many women I have lined up to tell stories. And it's just, it's really, it's awesome that they're like coming and I'm not advertising I just people come and find me and they sign up to take so it's like, it's just really crazy how much of a needed is and how much it helps our community to let people know about what we've done and just help women veterans not feel so alone. So, if you like this podcast, you got to check out the female veteran’s podcast. And I'll make sure to put links in the show notes so that you guys can get connected with Kia everywhere she is on social media and to get to the podcast easily. And then my last question is, what would you tell young women considering joining the military?
Kia Baker 45:21
Well, it's funny that you should mention that my niece is 17. And I saw her just a couple weeks ago in a family function. And she said to me, “You were in the military, I'm thinking of joining, what do you think?” And the first thing I said was, I think you should listen to my podcast, and then decide for yourself because it has both the good and the bad stories, and then you can make an educated decision. And I said, but if you do decide to go into the military, I said, you know, go ROTC, go to college and have that experience and then go in as an officer and have that experience because In a way, I wish that what I did, although I don't regret being enlisted, I met amazing people. We had so much I had too much fun. So maybe that's part of it. But that's what I would say. And I would say, if you want to go in no matter how you want to go in officer or enlisted, just do your research, make sure that it's the right fit for you. And then just do it. Just do it because it does actually my mama was right. It is a great foundation to start your life.
Amanda Huffman 46:30
The military is a really great foundation and those four, six, twenty years that you spend will change your life. And I agree also to listen to the podcast. That's why I created this podcast to give young women who are looking join the military a place to hear like you said, the good the bad, and just be able to hear more stories from women so that they're not just hearing what men have to say about the military. So, thank you so much for being a guest. I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to be on the podcast. So, thank you.
Kia Baker 47:07
Thank you so much for having me. I love your show. I'm a huge fan.
Amanda Huffman 47:11
Thank you.Thank you for listening to this episode of women of the military. Make sure to subscribe so you don't miss any of the amazing stories I have with women who have served in our military. Did you love the show? Don't forget to leave a review. Finally, if you are a woman who has served or is currently serving in the military, please email me at airman to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can set you up to be on a future episode of women of the military.