How I Met R4 Alliance
I’m Shanda Taylor Boyd, a proud U.S. Army veteran and TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor. Believe it or not in 1985 God blessed this “Little Black Girl” from a small city outside Philadelphia who was raised by a single mom and had lived in the “projects” to become the first female to attend Army ROTC at the then all-male Valley Forge Military Academy and College. You see, my life is all about being able to pay it forward. I like to share these tidbits not to bore or to impress you, but to hopefully encourage others to refuse to allow our our circumstances, illnesses, injuries or less than fortunate pasts define us.
I had no idea that this accomplishment which also resulted in an ARMY ROTC Scholarship, an Airborne slot (WINGS), DMG (Distinguished Military Graduate) and receiving the honor of becoming the first female Regular Army Commissionee. I recently learned that it wasn’t until 2006 that the military institution fully integrated female cadets, which spanned my entire 23 year military career (active duty and Reserve).
Prior to attend Army ROTC, I participated in four years of Junior Air Force ROTC, enlisted in the Army’s SMP (Simultaneous Military Program) so that I could also attend college. This enabled me to attend Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, S.C., AIT (Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Benjamin Harrison between college summers). My MOS was 75 B (Personnel Administrative Specialist). Upon college graduation and commissioning I became a Military Police Officer and trained at Ft, McClellan, Alabama) between my assignment to Germany (Officer Advanced and Basic). To make a long career story short, later I went back to college to earn a BSN in nursing from the University of Washington and became an Army Nurse, which was my final MOS.
What’s that got to do with how I met R4Alliance? Well have you ever heard of “Six Degrees of Separation”? When I met R4 Alliance, the national umbrella organization for 77 local organizations who has the sole mission of providing services, assistance, events, activities, and resources to improve the lives of those living in our military and veteran communities and their loved ones, the six degrees became about three degrees of separation! Everything came into focus as my 12 year post TBI “New Normal” began to take on an ever greater meaning. My mind, heart, soul and spirt were elevated to the point where I was moved to tears.
When I arrived at the Waterfront Hotel for my event with Villagers for Veterans, I had no idea what how my life was about to change forever, nor that I would simultaneously be embraced by so many like minded heads of these quality of life enhancing mission oriented leaders, directors and advocates. As I met these phenomenal individuals and heads of these organizations, it was as though I could barely contain the sense of empowerment of which I was overcome. I clearly recall wanting to shout out, “Hey you guys! Please don’t quit’! Please keep going! I have the best news ever!”
And to make even awesome news even more magnificent, the following day, I learned that in the near future there will practically be one stop shopping when registering for events. For instance, say I want to register for the World Team Sports Face of America bike Ride, and then I learn about Eagle Rock Camp’s retreat and am excited to participate, as long as I provide consent for the interagency transfer or sharing of my application information, there will be no need to re-event the wheel. Thus saving would-be-participants, caregivers and family precious time and energy, which make the idea of participating more desirable.
Then this is where lives begin to change because the fewer challenges of reaching the objective of making it to one, two, three or more of these recreational, adaptive sport and therapeutic opportunities which include an added bonus of sharing in the camaraderie which we’ve shared during our military service. We have an automatic connection and affinity to naturally bond. I know that my journey post injury has included my new normal athletic and recreational sports. What I didn’t realize back then was that these were helping to build coping skills, empowering me and strengthening my ability to be able to one day give back. R4 Alliance is INVESTING IN THE FUTURE! I am indirectly a molecular return in that investment because of the tremendous improvement in the quality of life I reap from what their R4 Alliance Family of organizations do for veterans like myself and my three daughters. When we are achieving our families see this and it brings them hope as well for a brighter and better future. A future where we are blessed to become a blessing to our sister and brother veterans, the brave men and women who have are serving, who have served and to those of the future generations who will serve. Thank you for your support R4 Alliance!
God bless America!
CPT Shanda Taylor Boyd
U.S. Army, Retired
BA, BSN, MHR (Masters in Human Relations)