Soldier provides Family a better life through Army service
March 29, 2013
It's a given. Tucked away in the heart and mind of every Soldier are sources of motivation inspiring them to continue with their missions.
For Sgt. Youlande Thomas, 249th Engineer Battalion property book non-commissioned officer, the source of motivation is clear.
"I have to be my kids' hero," said Thomas who left active duty in 2002 and reenlisted in 2007. "I came back in the Army to make sure they are taken care of and to give them a better overall life than what I was given."
Thomas is a talented singer, a logistician, a Soldier and a single mother working everyday to better herself, her Family and her country. She's proud to represent women in the Army as the U.S. celebrates Women's History Month in March.
"Women are awesome," Thomas said. "To be a woman, in the military, is powerful."
Thomas grew up in a project housing area in Saint Louis, Mo. Her Family was poor. To make ends meet, her mother worked multiple jobs and the Family relied on food stamps during certain periods of Thomas' childhood.
"I've seen her work to try and take care of us," Thomas said of her mother. "She didn't like the position we were in and she did the best that she could to give us what we needed."
Thomas' childhood experiences helped develop a desire to provide better living conditions for herself and her future Family.
"I didn't want to be like some people that never get out," Thomas said. "They're trapped in their environment and I knew that was something I didn't want to happen. If I decided to have kids, I wanted my kids to be able to experience and have better things than me."
The military provides her the ability to live a better life, Thomas said. Multiple members of her Family have served. Her sister is in the Army, her Father is retired Air Force and she has two uncles who retired from the Navy and Army respectively. Thomas picked the Army for no particular reason.
"I just woke up and said I'm going to the Army," Thomas said.
She originally enlisted as a cook in 1999. She worked in that position until 2002 when she got out of the Army. She ultimately returned to active duty in 2007 because the Army provided her children the opportunity to travel and to experience different cultures.
"I want my children to be able to think outside the box and look at life from other people's viewpoints," Thomas said.
She reenlisted as a logistician, which is a position her entire Family has filled during their times in the military, Thomas said.
"It's logistics. It's just something the Family does," said Thomas, who believes the Military Occupational Specialty is transferrable to civilian jobs. At the 249th Engineer Battalion, Thomas oversees equipment such as vehicles and generators used by units who provide commercial-level power through services such as transformer inspection, circuit breaker maintenance and electrical power assessments.
She's enjoys the job but that's not her only passion.
Thomas also enjoys singing. She discovered a talent for music around 10 years-old and she's inspired by recording artists such as Mariah Carey, Anita Baker and Mary J. Blige. She has performed in civilian fashion shows, change-of-command ceremonies and "Open Mic" nights during deployments. She hopes to sing in the U.S. Army Soldier Show one day.
"For me it's a hobby," said Thomas, who also writes poetry and song lyrics. "It's just something I do."
Sgt. 1st Class Tracie Evelyn, 249th Engineer Battalion S-4 non-commissioned officer-in-charge, said Thomas is a phenomenal singer.
"She's an outstanding individual, too" Evelyn said.
Thomas served under Evelyn's guidance in the S-4 shop prior to serving in the property book office. Evelyn called Thomas a great Soldier and a great representative for women during Women's History Month.
Evelyn believes women are capable of accomplishing great feats if they focus on their mission.
"Take Sergeant Thomas for instance; she takes great care of her children while balancing work and singing," Evelyn said "She's a great Soldier and she's an inspiration to other females around this battalion."
Thomas believes women have made great strides as civilians and as servicemembers. She's inspired by her mother and sister to continue to provide for her Family and her goal is to retire from the Army as a warrant officer.
According to the National Women's History website, Women's History Month traces back to the 1970s when the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County California Commission on the Status of Women initiated a Women's History Week. The celebration grew in popularity across state lines which eventually lead to the first month-long commemoration in 1987. The celebration pays tribute to generations of women.