Years Served: 1998-2011
Military Occupation: Military Police Officer (31B)
Hometown: Plainfield, IL
Twitter Handle: @ceonatcoleman
Tell us a little about you outside of the military:
- Outside of the military my life has been full of adventure, travel, leading, and making a difference in my community. I thoroughly enjoy traveling with my partner and seeing what the world has to offer. I spent my last birthday in Athens, Greece and Cairo, Egypt.
- I am a sports fan (not as big as I used to be) but I still enjoy the playoff season for most sports and seeing live sporting events. I also enjoy live music, visiting museums, and checking in on my nieces and nephews as they grow up.
- As a professional educator and lifelong learner, I love teaching young people about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math).
What do you hope to gain from the fellowship?
- I hope to gain a better understanding of the process of how advocating for Veterans work at the national level.
- I want to continue to build bonds with veterans from across the services and the United States.
- I also want to make a stand for those of us who may not have time, energy, ability or knowledge on how to stand for themselves.
What does advocacy mean to you?
- Advocacy means standing for a cause and doing something about it. I think it has to end with tangible evidence for what you are fighting for.
- Advocacy also means giving a voice to those who may be overlooked, underrepresented or disenfranchised. While veterans are from many walks of life, nationalities, religion, race, and gender, not all are fairly and equitably heard or thought of.
How did your military experience shape you to be the person you are today?
- My military experience shaped me into the forward thinking innovative leader I am today. The lessons I learned, starting when I joined ROTC at the University of Illinois, have been honed over 20 years now.
- The lessons learned in Officer School and in combat provided me with the foundation to be financially independent, build businesses, start a non-profit, give back to my community and be internationally known as an advocate for equitable STEAM education.
Which one of IAVA’s policy priorities for you believe is the most pressing? Why?
- Combatting suicide is the most pressing issue. Often Veterans are faced with a feeling of loneliness and isolation because after completing their service there is a gap in purpose. While in the military you are given missions, build cohesion with teams, understand purpose of personality and have a goal. Once this is taken from you or is no longer present it can cause depression, isolation, addiction and loneliness.
Which one of IAVA’s policy priorities do you have the strongest personal connection to? Why?
- I have the strongest connection to Women’s Veterans and Education equally. As a woman in the military we face obstacles that can become barriers. However, if we have advocacy and representation as well as allies the military can bolster women into great leadership positions in and out of the military. One incident however can catapult someone’s life into a dark abyss that they spend years recovering from.
- Education benefits are important as many people’s ticket out of environments that may not have been good for them. I know without my military benefits I would not have been able to earn my Educational Doctorate. I think all Veterans deserve education benefits to help strengthen their skills that can essentially help them improve their military career or life after the military.
More #AllStarAdvocacy videos are available in IAVA’s 2023 All-Star Advocacy Fly-In video showcase.