Fort Stewart, Ga. – Dominique Dove was 20 when she first became homeless. As a recent high school graduate, she moved away from her mother in Germany with aspirations of going to law school in Virginia.
She paid her way through school, but it wasn’t long until bills started to pile up. She found herself sleeping in her car, too stubborn to ask for help.
“I had an ex-boyfriend that was in the Navy and would go out to sea,” Dove said. “So I would go to work during the day, eat dinner, go to class, and then at nine I would sleep in a naval base parking lot where they left their cars.”
She eventually met Aaron Dove, her now husband, and he helped her find a place to stay. At the time, he was a friend that didn’t realize how long Dove had stayed silent as a homeless woman. However, he then reached out to Dove’s sister, both being able to give her the comfort she deserved. With the stability of a roof over her head, she graduated from ROTC to then attend law school as a human resources officer in the reserves and was commissioned in the active duty Army as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General Corps.
Dove is now an Army captain serving with the 3rd Infantry Division on Fort Stewart. However, the struggles she faced as a homeless Soldier are never far from her mind. She has dedicated much of her limited free time to helping other Soldiers avoid homelessness such as drafting and presenting proposals to the Veteran Affairs to create additional programs aimed at assisting Soldiers as they transition out of the military.
She drafts and presents proposals to the Veteran Affairs to create additional programs aimed at assisting Soldiers as they transition out of the military. When she’s not lobbying for homeless veterans, Dove spends her time volunteering at multiple organizations that provide a way for homeless Veterans to receive assistance. She mostly works with women. She hopes to change the way the world views homelessness among Veterans.
“The recommendations I suggest broaden the definition of homelessness,” Dove said. “This allows certain programs to be geared towards women, and the different issues that they will face getting out of the military, and to prevent them from becoming homeless.”
Although Veteran advocacy is now a huge passion for Dove, it wasn’t always this way.
In 2011, Dove began to compete in Ms. Veteran America Competitions. It was during one of these competitions that she met a woman named Juanita Sepulveda. Sepulveda, a Marine Corps Veteran and community advocate, was homeless with six children before the competition. The two women found they shared many parallels in their lives. It was this relationship that helped Dove realize the importance of becoming an advocate for homeless Veterans.
“We discovered that we were both formerly homeless and talked about how we came across it,” Sepulveda said. “We had this common goal of changing the definition for our active duty women and Veterans that are homeless now with children.”
Dove now works with that goal of change in mind. Although she doesn’t know if her recommendations will be implemented that doesn’t stop her from pursuing these changes.
In addition to advocating for homeless veterans, Dove’s perspective regarding pregnancy and postpartum guidelines altered when she became the mother of 3-year-old Ariana. Her experience as a new mother and active duty Soldier gave her insight into the challenges women in uniform face after childbirth. She shared this experience recently with senior military leaders and helped the Army develop its regulations that will soon allow parents to spend more time with their new children after childbirth.
Even with the workload of her career and caring for her child, Dove still makes time to compete in these competitions that she holds close to her heart. She recently placed in the top 10 of the Ms. Veteran America Competition and plans to compete again this year.
“When you talk about a person that’s got a servant's heart, you don’t have to look any further than Dominique,” Sepulveda said.
Sepulveda explains that as military members we begin to develop a necessity in helping others if we notice individuals who are struggling. We learn through these relationships and life experiences that although there isn’t a way to save everybody, impacting one person at a time is both Dove and Sepulveda's goal with helping homeless veterans to have a voice.
“I feel as though I’m giving back because I’m helping homeless veterans, and they took care of us by giving their service to their country,” Dove said.
Dove has been able to not only speak on what matters to her, but for what matters to our Soldiers as well as our veterans. Allowing her to continuously grow in her voice and take action to help.
“Because of the Army I was able to reach my goals and had a lot of amazing experiences, met a lot of amazing soldiers,” Dove said. “I don't know where I’d be without the Army.”