Paralegal specialist Sgt. Nicolya Jones, military career began six years ago, but her life of service began more than 35 years ago as a military brat.
The Fayetteville, N.C., native assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, grew up in a strict home, where her father, an Army master sergeant, ran the home with discipline, structure and lots of love. It in turn fostered a strong desire within Jones to excel and succeed through life's challenges.
The single mother of three and former assistant kindergarten teacher has a strong desire to help and mentor young people.
She enrolled in Fayetteville State University to continue her education on a merit based academic scholarship, which lead to her earning a Bachelors of Science degree in criminal justice.
An encounter in 2008 with an Army recruiter enabled Jones to serve her country like her father and older sister, a medically retired technical sergeant with the Air Force.
Jones enlisted in the Officer Candidate School and shipped out to begin military service journey. Entering the second week of OCS at Fort Benning, Ga., she sustained an injury and was unable to complete the program.
The injury derailed her plans of becoming an officer in the Adjutant General Corps, but her strong religious faith and desire to serve kept her focused. When an opportunity to continue serving as an enlisted paralegal came, she eagerly took it to work in a field she loved.
"I have always wanted to join the Army, but was too scared to leave my children alone and nothing was going to stop me now that I had made the decision to serve my country," Jones said.
After being medically cleared to continue training, she returned to Fort Jackson, SC., for advanced individual training to become a paralegal specialist.
Jones recently completed her Masters in Human services, marriages and family therapy from Liberty University, and hopes to have her first book of short stories and poems published by the end of the year.
"I am so proud of both of my daughters for joining the military and serving our country," retired Master Sgt. Joseph Gadsden said. "I have always pushed them to continue their education and to be the very best at whatever they do."
He said it was a great privilege for young people to join the military and serve their country.
The challenges of being a Soldier, a single mother in the military, and finding the balance between the two can be overwhelming at times.
"If I didn't have a great support network with my parents, friends and church family to assist me, I am not sure how I would be as successful," Jones said. "At home, I apply the same standards of being mentally and physically fit, as well as ensuring my children understand and respect structure."
She said children must feel like they are as important as the military is in your life. "You have to be the loudest parent on the side-lines at all sporting events as well as spend time laughing and playing with them so they always feel loved," she said.