By L.A. ShivelyJuly 16, 2010
Staff Sgt. Sandra Smith recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree - a first for Soldiers in the Brooke Army Medical Center's Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
"Its exciting stuff," said Gabrielle Dias, director, Soldier Family Assistance Center.
"You can accomplish something in a short amount of time if you put your mind to it. Even if you're at the WTU, it doesn't mean you have to stand still."
Dias said Soldiers should continue to reach for goals and not put life on hold while they are healing and Smith's accomplishment is a great example.
Successful Soldiers is the goal of the WTU and if education is a piece of that then our goals are met Dias said.
Smith majored in Applied Science with a concentration in Management, She said Weyland Baptist University evaluated her training and background and gave her a large number of management credits that helped her decide her field. Primary Leadership Courses were counted as well as her military evaluation she said.
Deployed often since 2002, Smith completed several tours overseas. Her last deployment was to Afghanistan. The stress finally took its toll on her and her family, and she lost her mom last year.
The WTU helped her refocus on her goals in life.
Smith said it was the doctors, nurses and counselors that helped give her insight and a reason to move on in life.
"They encouraged me to return to school - to pick up the pieces of my life and start rebuilding," Smith said.
With their help Smith polished her resume, began classes and found an internship with the Corps of Engineers.
Smith said she plans to stay in San Antonio where she's got a job lined up and has found friends,
"Doors have opened up for me here. I envision myself as a kid, opening all the doors to see what's on the other side. Now I have a new outlook and want to keep going higher and higher in life."
Eventually she says she'll follow her dream and go home to teach children on the Navaho reservation where she grew up, near Winslow Arizona.
She said she say many similarities between her Navajo culture and the Afghanistan culture, and seeing the kids there got her to thinking about the kids back home and what she might offer them.
"In Afghanistan the kids look up to the Americans and want to learn. It's rewarding when they learn from you."