By April D. Ryan, aprildryan.com
It is Veterans Day, and according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, it is a Federal holiday designated as a time to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. This morning, President Obama hosts a breakfast to honor veterans and their families in the State Dining Room and then he and the First Lady and Vice President Biden and Mrs. Biden participate in a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
One of those who worked on the preparations for the President’s Wreath Laying Ceremony is Army retired Tanya Bradsher. She serves as Assistant Director of the Office of Public Engagement and serves as the lead for Veterans, Wounded Warrior and Military Family Outreach.
In preparation for today’s solemn occasion Bradsher made several trips to Arlington National Cemetery. During one of her recent trips, she stood before the graves of her grandfather and father who were both Army retired. Her father died two years ago and is buried in his Army uniform and with the program from her Military graduation ceremony inside his jacket pocket. He lived to see many of her military accomplishments.
Her career started about two decades ago but in September 2013, Bradsher retired concluding 20 years of service in the United States Army. She is a mother of three girls ages: 14, 11 and 7 and the wife of active duty U.S. Army Colonel John Bradsher.
Bradsher’s story of military service is unique. In college, she did not plan on a life in the family business, the United States Army. She recalls being the first in her family to graduate college with a Bachelors of Arts Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her focus and goal was to obtain her degree, “that was it.” She remembers, “I didn’t really know how to plan after.” But, soon after graduation and working at a job that was not financially fulfilling, she was at a crossroads and her mother, not the military men in her family, was the reason for her following her family tradition. Her mother told her she needed to join the Army and get her commission. Bradsher retorted, “no not me, there is no way.” Her mother took her to the local recruiting office wanting her to join the Army as a Commissioned Officer. After speaking to the recruiter on several occasions and testing there, Bradsher’s story of military service began.
It was not her original plan, but Bradsher made the military experience her own. Bradsher, a military brat, remembers her knowledge of military bases to become the group leader of her troop where she marched straight through regular basic training. Around that time her father just retired from the Army. He offered strategic and sage advice, helping her avoid pitfalls and move into the elite Officer training school. She began her climb through the ranks, earning her commission through the Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Her resume began to expand. LTC Bradsher is an Operation Iraqi Freedom Army veteran and has served overseas including two tours in the Republic of Korea and in Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response. She has earned several awards, including the Bronze Star.
During her 20 years in the Army she also worked as the National Security Staff spokesperson for the Department of Defense (DOD), Asia, Africa, Western Hemisphere, counter-terrorism, and detainee policies. She says Asia was one of her favorite spots in the world. She explains why saying, Asia is her “favorite” because of what Asia represents to the world to include trade matters.
When it comes to memories on the job, 9-11 was a day Bradsher will never forget as she was pregnant working in the Pentagon when a plane was used as a missile to penetrate and damage the building along with the World Trade Center Towers in New York. Bradsher was in the building when the plane hit and when two floors of the attacked area collapsed after impact. It was full on military work for her right after 9-11. She worked well into the pregnancy on National Security aspects of the worst attack on American soil. Because of the intensity of the work, she says her second pregnancy was a blur with the work in the aftermath of September 11.
Looking back on her career she says even though she loved her work in National Security she adores what she is doing now, being the advocate for Wounded Warriors as the lead for Veterans, Wounded Warrior and Military Family Outreach. She says “it doesn’t feel like work when you are doing what you love.” She is the link between the White House and Veterans Service Organizations our Veterans over all, military families and Wounded Warriors to make sure the focus on veterans and service members continues.
In various ways the United States military has been a part of Lt. Colonel Bradsher’s entire life. She feels personal satisfaction with her work with Veterans and Military families and recognizes “President Obama has been amazing and one of the most devoted Presidents to our veterans…his commitment will not stop.”