Featured Veteran: Army Sergeant Naslie Frenes, June 2014 – Present.
This past Memorial Day weekend, many families gathered around the barbecue pit firing up steaks and burgers or soaking up the sun at the beach enjoying the beautiful weather. For others, this holiday is a remembrance for the brave men and woman who have sacrificed their lives in service to our country. Naslie Frenes spent it volunteering as a mentor with Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS is a non-profit organization that provides support to families who have lost loved ones while they were serving in the Armed Forces.
A few weeks ago, Frenes’ Battalion Commander recommended TAPS to her. This is a program he has been helping to coordinate as a mentor for the last ten years. After he explained the organization to her and she did a quick online review, she happily signed up. Frenes said that she was surprised so many of the mentees were children. She went on to say, “You can see the hurt in their eyes, they see other children with their parents, except them and wonder why.” Frenes is very astonished with the maturity of the mentees. Due to confidentiality we are not able to discuss specifics, but she was amazed to find out that, “most mentees want to follow in the footprints of their parents.” This is amazing, given the fact they are there to seek comfort for losing their loved ones in the line of duty. Frenes said, “The experience was more than what I expected and a real eye opener”.
Like many of the mentees, Frenes also knew she wanted to be in the military at a young age. Since middle school, she looked forward to getting her first taste of the lifestyle in high school. Frenes spent a few months of her junior year in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Course, but she could not continue because of other school commitments. Frenes has always liked the idea of uniforms, the discipline and respect that comes with the service. She is not too keen on the amount of possible deployments one must be ready for but understands it comes with the job. She feels “life in the military is a hard one but a very rewarding one”.
Frenes is currently working on her degree and wants to work in the human resource field. Once she has her degree, she will weigh her options on whether to continue her career in the military. Like many service members, it is a hard decision because of the stability. She doesn’t think the process will be too difficult because of the programs the Army provides. Programs such as Solider for Life (SFL) and SFL Transitional Assistance Program prepare soldiers for exiting the Army. You can start the course twelve months in advance of departing the military. They work on many career elements like resume writing and job placement. Frenes states many of the soldiers she has known, that have participated, have had job placements before even transitioning out.
Frenes has recently returned from a nine-month deployment from Afghanistan. This was extremely hard due to having to leave her two-year-old son back home. She is grateful and fortunate to have been able to talk to him via video chat almost daily. Both Frenes and her ex husband were deployed at the same time, and their son stayed with his family. I asked Frenes if she would let her son join the service, if that is what he wanted to pursue. She responded, “I want him to pursue his dream and if that is what he wants, I will help him to achieve it.” Not wanting to think the worst, she is happy knowing that if anything tragic should happen, programs like TAPS are out there to help. Frenes now sees how great and important programs like TAPS and others are to the military community.
For more information on TAPS, click here.
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* Cover photo by Julie Igo Photography.