Service, Sacrifice and Perspective

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Spencer Kanar
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Today veterans make up 5.6% of the total civilian labor force. After 23 years of faithful service, Nicole Shepard, a retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant and current 377th Air Base Wing resident advocate, has joined that percentage and now continuously strives to convey to others the importance of their service and the impact it has.

“It doesn’t matter what job you have,” expressed Shepard. “It doesn’t matter if you’re just turning screws or helping patients, your contribution matters, as an individual you have a far greater impact than you realize.”

Shepard originally enlisted in the Air Force in 1993 and served as a medical technician where she had the responsibility of ensuring the safety and well-being of patients, both in the hospital and the field.

Throughout her career, Nicole had the opportunity to serve in numerous leadership roles and eventually was assigned as the squadron superintendent for three separate squadrons as a testament to her character.

“I was used to going 100 miles per hour, one thing to the next,” Shepard said.  “I was so used to the fast pace that I never realized how much impact my job had.”

She never took the time to realize just how far she had gone in her career and the many impacts she had on the country and people she encountered along the way. Upon her separation from the Air Force, Shepard began to struggle with how she would occupy her time. Identity crisis began to befall upon her and she had no idea where she fit back in society.

“I forgot how much I sacrificed and I think many veterans have,” Shepard said. “You had to put aside taking care of yourself and being present for your family, and I think that gets lost on many people.“

After retiring, Shepard began to spend more time raising her four children and completing her bachelor's degree in healthcare and masters in management. When asked about transitioning to civilian life, Shepard said it was difficult learning to slow down again, but a blessing to have the time to focus on herself and raising her four children.

“I had to rediscover myself,” she recounted. “Like other veterans I was seeking a sense of belonging, the feeling of contributing to a higher purpose that I lost when I took off the uniform.”