By T. M. Beller, New York City Recruiting Battalion
NEW YORK CITY — For Brooklyn residents Shonette Richmond, a 20-year-old voracious reader, and her 19-year-old sister and family adventurer, Shonell, the 2011 holiday season was less about the latest-and-greatest stocking stuffers and more about celebrating a prosperous future with their mother, Sandra, as two newly enlisted U.S. Army Future Soldiers.
From a position of strength and knowledge, the pair made a positive, life-changing decision and enlisted into the Army Nov. 10, 2011. With the help of several U.S. Army career counselors — Staff Sgts. Deon A. Lindo, Brandon D. Jeremiah, Jonathan N. Jacobs and Jay R. Lawrence, all assigned to the Flatbush Recruiting Center in Brooklyn — these sister-Soldiers are now enjoying a peace of mind not normally associated with the stressful holidays and uncertain economic times.
“For my sister and I, this is an amazing opportunity for our futures,” said Shonette, a native of Guyana, who enlisted into the Army for six years as a medical laboratory specialist. “Joining the U.S. Army is a great way to open doors of opportunity for both of us.”
Mentored by a team of U.S. Army career counselors throughout their entire enlistment process, the girls received roughly $76,000 each in education benefits to be used both during and after service, as long as they fulfill their service obligations. Not only are they both eligible to receive $27,000 from the Army’s tuition assistance program while serving, but also they are eligible to receive at least $49,248 in Montgomery GI Bill benefits. If the benefit rate should rise in the coming years, they will receive more for their education.
“I was studying at Hunter College here in New York,” said Shonette. “And although I enjoyed my time as a college student, the costs are too high for me to continue right now. With the Army’s help, I can pay for a college education and breathe a little easier about managing my tuition in the future.”
For younger sister Shonell, a 2010 graduate of Brooklyn’s High School for Global Citizenship who is studying nutrition at New York City College of Technology, a career as a food service specialist is quite the dish!
Born to a coastal lifestyle in Guyana, Shonell developed the love for food quickly. As she began exploring career opportunities with her sister within the past year, the two learned Shonell could enter into the Army’s world-class food-service program at Fort Lee, Va., an installation which has hosted 35 culinary arts competitions since 1973, according to Fort Lee’s newspaper, The Traveler.
For some U.S. Army applicants, overcoming the objections from friends and family can be a large barrier to enlistment. But for these sisters, mother’s blessing was easy to come by because the Army addressed each question Sandra had about the future of her daughters.
“I have two beautiful young daughters, and they have their futures ahead of them,” said Sandra. “When I first heard of their interest in the Army, I visited [Staff] Sgt. Jacobs and said to him, ‘This is the first time in their lives they will be separate from each other and from their mother, so they won’t have any parental guidance in their lives. I need to know they will be taken care of.’
“I felt completely comfortable with him when we were done speaking,” Sandra said. “Like any parent, I worry, you know. Shonette doesn’t know how to do housework, but Shonell on the other hand, she cooks, she cleans … so this will be a wake-up call for both. This is where the Army will prepare them for life and teach them how to guide themselves right on through. I just keep telling them to focus — on college and not the boys!”
Both girls picked careers with highly transferable skills, increasing the likelihood of securing private-sector employment after completion of their Army service.
“The value of a military experience in today’s world is priceless,” according to Diane Hudson Burns, a veterans’ job search expert on a leading job source website. “Veterans are disciplined people, self-starters, trustworthy, drug free, healthy and are excellent communicators who offer a strong work ethic and strive to accomplish a task the first time.”
Shonell said she is ready to go.
“This is a huge opportunity for us to travel and complete our education.”