As I stand firm in the uniform that generations before me proudly wore, I can't help but feel the weight of history stitched into every fabric. My journey in the Army isn't just a career choice; it's an inherited legacy that predates my own existence. It's the continuation of a cherished tradition I like to refer to as the Family business.
In my Family, military service is a shared commitment that transcends four generations. It's a legacy imprinted in my Family's narrative, passed down like a treasured heirloom through tales of sacrifice and triumph that echo across time.
We aren't just Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines; we're guardians of a heritage, custodians of a story that extends beyond our individual experiences. Each deployment, every hardship endured, every triumph celebrated, and every promotion earned, adds another chapter to the ongoing saga of our Family's unwavering dedication to service.
As I don the uniform, I am mindful of the legacy birthed by my great-grandmother Strawdie. She may have been rooted in the soil of Florida her entire life, but her legacy blossomed and reached every corner of the world through her decedents.
My great-grandmother is the creator of 18 American heroes with over a century of total service spread between two children, 7 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.
As the eldest among Strawdie's six children, my uncle Jim naturally stepped into the patriarchal role within our Family, a position he has held my entire life until his departure from Earth last year. I can vividly recall those Sunday School mornings at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church. As kids, we all gathered around and listened to Uncle Jim, whose tales of the Korean War and his time on the Red Ball Express ignited my youthful imagination.
I now look at these stories as poignant reminders of our Family's enduring commitment to serving this nation, and I’ve come to deeply appreciate the value as each story as they served as a powerful expression of his unwavering pride in serving this country. This is a pride that has flowed through my Family’s veins for generations.
Reflecting on those who have been pillars of inspiration in my life, I am deeply humbled by their enduring legacy and deeply grateful for the influence they have had on my military career. Among them are my mother, retired Army Sgt. Terrena Hogue, whose strength and perseverance were unmatched; my cousin, Army Col. Ivan Udell, who not only served as my first reenlistment officer but also embraced me as his own during my mother's deployment to Iraq; my favorite cousin, retired Navy Cmdr. Anitra Mingo, who gracefully balanced motherhood with 27 years of dedicated service; and my uncle, former Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Stewart Udell, who instilled in me the importance of exuding confidence at all times.
Standing steadfast beside me are three individuals entrusted with the sacred duty of upholding our Family legacy: my baby brother, Army Sgt. JaVeon Hogue, and my cousins, Navy Chief Petty Officer Vinisha Udell and Air Force Staff Sgt. Keyvon Murray.
Together, we solemnly recognize the weight of our responsibility and the gravity of our duty as we await the moment to pass this torch to the next generation, who will carry forward what was started long before our time.
Being an African American in the military has its unique challenges, a truth my relatives knew all too well. Yet, it's this very history that fuels my resolve. I carry their struggles with me, turning adversity into a source of strength.
Every day, I proudly wear the fabric of this country knowing that I'm not just continuing a tradition – I'm shaping it. This Family business isn't about medals or ranks; it's about the shared heartbeat of duty that unites us across generations. It's a legacy I embrace with pride, knowing that I stand on the shoulders of giants, ready to add my chapter to the enduring story of service, sacrifice, and a legacy that defines us as a Family.