In 1989, when Maggie De Jesus was a 20-year-old college student, a U.S. Army recruiter at her church told her about the military’s student loan repayment program. “He asked me to come into his office and take an aptitude test,” says Maggie. “The next thing I knew, I was at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) and, two weeks later, at boot camp.”
So began Maggie’s military career.
Lessons Learned in the Military Carry Forward
“At first, my transition into the military was difficult,” says Maggie. “I hadn’t been involved in ROTC in high school, nor had anyone in my immediate family been a military servicemember. I hadn’t been exposed to that lifestyle.” But, soon enough, Maggie found herself acclimated to Army life. After completing basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey (now Joint Base McGuire–Dix– Lakehurst), she was stationed at Fort Sheridan, Illinois and, later, in Germany at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. “Basic training prepared me for all elements of service: physical, mental, and emotional,” says Maggie. “It also gave me the tools necessary to serve my country in the roles assigned to me.”
And serve, she did. After boot camp, Maggie was assigned to a dental field unit where she served as a personnel administration specialist. There she honed strengths and acquired abilities that, otherwise, she would not have. But the lessons learned while in the military often came at a cost. Maggie and her unit were deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, where she acquired Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Maggie left the Army in 1997 when her contract obligation ended. By then, she was married with two children and wanted to focus on her family and her life as a civilian. But the latter, which included re-entering the workforce, proved challenging. “It took some time to adjust to civilian life,” Maggie says. “I had to figure out where I fit in and how my skills translated in the workforce.” Eventually, she did just that—to such a degree that she found and held a 20-year position working for the City of Tampa, where she was finally able to finish college and earn a Bachelor of Science degree.
Continuing to Serve Veterans at PRIDE Industries
Then, in 2016, after moving to California, Maggie was referred to PRIDE Industries by another employee who thought she’d be a great fit for an open position. Ultimately landing that job, she has worked in the Risk Management Division ever since, where she loves the interaction with other employees. “I get to help our inside customers as well as our outside customers,” she says. “I’m also the Vice Chair of PRIDE Industries’ Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG). I really enjoy serving our veterans and creating opportunities for recognition, support, and mentorship.”
Asked what advice she would give to other veterans transitioning to civilian life, Maggie stresses that they give themselves time and ask for help when needed. She’s also quick to note, “The Veterans Administration Medical Center has a lot of resources to help veterans.”
When asked about her proudest moment in the military, Maggie emphasizes her role as a woman veteran. “I’m proud to have served my country for eight years,” she says. “And I’m especially proud to be a woman veteran. I emphasize that because, to this day, when people see my Army apparel or stickers, they assume my husband is the veteran.”
According to a 2015 report published by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, women have been formally included in the United States Armed forces since 1901. Informally, they have served “since the inception of our nation’s military.” At the time of the report’s publication, 200,692 women were active in the U.S. Armed Forces, and, since then, the numbers have grown.
Maggie has traveled a long road from that day at church in 1989. We at PRIDE Industries are grateful for her service and the journey that led her here.