In honor of Memorial Day next Monday, we thought it would only be fitting to hear from Veronica Parnell, Captain of the United States Air Force (retired) and Senior Aerospace Science Instructor.
How it All Started
The flashy Air Force commercials with women in uniforms motivated me to do well in school and stay focused on my goals to join the Air Force. Two weeks after my high school graduation ceremony, I left home for a military training base in San Antonio, Texas. Two years later, I was walking the streets of Germany. Joining the Air Force was the best decision I could have ever made for my life. I’ve loved every experience, and my life is better for every situation, whether good or bad. While stationed in Italy, I met and married my husband of 19 years and shortly afterwards we started a family. Together we’ve raised two amazing sons, who bring us immeasurable joy.
My military travels have allowed me to walk the dangerous streets of Iraq and Afghanistan and to travel beautiful cities in Europe. The people I’ve met along the way have become mainstays in my life. I’ve made mistakes along the way but the good times have easily outweighed the bad and for that, I’m thankful!
Making the Best of a Bad Situation
My father passed away from colon cancer, when I was 11 years old. I can’t remember much about the day he died except that I thought my life was over. I couldn’t bring myself to understand how a man who was barely 32 years old would die from this horrible disease. The emptiness and pain I felt was almost unbearable. The love of a God-fearing mother and grandmother, coupled with the protection of an older brother, helped me survive. Slowly, I began to heal from losing my father and I stopped feeling guilty for wanting to dream of a better life. My oldest brother and cousin had joined the Air Force and Marines respectively. Both encouraged me to do the same. All through high school, my one desire was to join the Air Force as soon as I was allowed.
Great is Your Reward
More than 30 years after graduating high school, I’m the senior instructor for a high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. For the past 5 years, I’ve enjoyed mentoring students from ages 14-18; sharing with them my life experiencing and helping them to navigate through high school towards graduation and beyond. I’m reminded daily that the lives I touch aren’t much different than the one I lived as a child.
My love for natural hair, and the encouragement from a school counselor, led me to start a hair club at the school to teach the girls how to love and maintain their natural hair. The club has reached into the community and hosted natural hair meet-ups with plans to start a second club at a neighboring high school in the same school district. I’m also a mentor at the local Children’s Home, where I will teach those girls how to care for their hair as well.
Believe in the Vision
Spending my days with teenage girls has helped me to live a life that’s filled with excitement and gratefulness. My bad days are easily forgotten when a former student sends a text, or calls to tell me something exciting that’s happening in her world. I’m quickly reminded that my labor is not in vain and that I’m making a difference.