Each month, VA’s Center for Women Veterans profiles a different woman Veteran author as part of its Women Veteran Authors Book Corner. This month’s Women Veteran Authors Book Corner author is U.S. Army retired Master Sergeant Tanya R. Whitney, who served from 1983-2010.
Whiteney wrote “A Soldier’s Journey Home,” a collection of poetry written as part of her therapy for overcoming PTSD. The poems highlight her Army ideals and her transition from combat to retirement. Her journey covers the highs and lows she experienced and the hopelessness and trials of becoming a civilian after half a lifetime in uniform.
What are you doing now?
After retirement, in addition to writing, I became a cross country and track and field coach at my alma mater, St. Amant High School in Louisiana. I also volunteer with several local Veteran organizations.
Where and when did you serve?
I served in the U. S. Army as Aviation Maintenance, from 1983 to 1987 on active duty; from 1987 to 1995 in the Louisiana Army National Guard; and from 1995 to 2010 on active duty as Title 10 with the National Guard.
I deployed multiple times to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Djibouti as part of OIF/OEF campaigns.
What was your proudest service memory?
With 27 years of total service, it is hard to choose just one; I had a great career.
What was your inspiration for writing?
Several of my friends were my inspiration; they encouraged me to put together my poems into a book. I didn’t think my poems were very good, but in 2018 one of my poems was selected for the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Gold Medal in writing. Since then, I have had several poems published in various poetry anthologies, and I have also recently had some short stories published.
How has your military experience shaped your creativity or how you express yourself?
I think my military service has given me the courage to express myself through my writing. While on active duty, I wrote a lot of technical type reports and contracts, and I believe that experience opened up the possibility to pursue creative writing as a hobby.
What advice would you give other women Veterans who may be considering writing?
Write, write, and write some more. One of my mentors told me that only you can write your story, and the only story that hasn’t been written is yours.
How can women Veteran authors help shape society’s understanding of women Veterans’ military experience and their contributions?
If we don’t tell our stories, no one else will. We have lost so many stories of what women have done in the military that can never be regained. Everyone who served has a story and has become a part of our history. We must ensure the public understands our sacrifices have been just as great and as important as our brothers, regardless of when, where, or how long we served.
What were some of your obstacles and challenges in writing this book?
I was probably the biggest obstacle and challenge in putting the book together. It took me a year to become bold enough to hit the publish button.
What are your recommendations for illustrating, book cover selection, and publishing?
It’s okay to ask for help. I joined a local group of writers who had published books and asked them about their experiences. I chose to self-publish through Kindle Publishing due to the cost of using a publishing company, but there are many avenues to publishing. Do your homework.
What is one significant thing we should know about you?
I didn’t think I would enjoy working with the teenagers I coach, but I love it. It’s the chance to mentor and share life experiences with them, especially those who don’t have a good home life.
How has writing this book helped you?
It has helped me exorcise some demons or at least put them aside.
What is your favorite quote?
“From the beginning of time, nothing was accomplished without women… and nothing has been ignored more than their accomplishments.” by B.A. Wilson
If you could choose one woman from any point in time to share a meal with, who would she be?
There are so many women from history that I admire, and I would love to sit down with each one for very different reasons. My top choices are: Cleopatra, to get her real story (not the Liz Taylor version); Pharoah Hatshepsut, on why she felt the need to take on a male persona to rule; Boudicca, because she dared to take on Rome; and Ruth Law, one of the first women aviators.
Are you a woman Veteran author, or do you know of one?
Please visit our website for more information. If you have further questions, contact CWV Outreach Program Manager Michelle Terry at Michelle.Terry2@VA.gov.