About Betty Rhoades

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So far Betty Rhoades has created 22 blog entries.

The Next Level

By Ursula Palmer

“What got you here won’t keep you here and won’t get you there.”

This was one of the first pieces of advice I received at the beginning of my career. I had been at my entry level job for a couple of years and didn’t seem to be able to get the promotion I thought I deserved. Within a couple of months, I was taking a real estate investment class while interning for the school’s CEO. One day, the President of the real estate school said something I’ll never forget: “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”  So, I worked hard, and a few months later, their real estate auction company offered me the position of Director of Marketing. It seemed things we’re finally working out.

Then, when I thought I had it together, my husband was severely injured while on active duty in Afghanistan and died two and a half months later.  In the blink of an eye, I had become a Gold Star Spouse, left behind with a 3-year-old daughter. She became my reason to survive. I knew that regardless of how heartbroken and depressed I felt, I had to figure out a way to show her how to survive, adapt, and move forward.

I worked for a few more years at the Real Estate Auction company, and then I found love again. I married into the military for the second time. I had to move away from a job I loved and had a beautiful baby boy who got severely sick at 18 months old, leading me to put my career on hold to take care of him. During that time, I started to volunteer for two of the organizations that had provided support during my journey as a military widow. I was now in a position to use my experience to help and advocate for others. That was extremely empowering and fulfilling.

The volunteer experience was great, but I knew I had to continue to improve myself if I was to go back to the workforce. So, I decided to get my Project Management Professional certification. Then, as I was participating in a golf program for wounded warriors, disabled veterans and Gold Star families, the organization providing the adaptive golf classes was looking for a program manager. Working with veterans and for veterans was addicting and it provided me with an opportunity to give back to those, who like my two husbands, had given so much to our country.

A few years passed, and I knew I could do more to serve the military community. That’s when I found HillVets. Their website stated that they brought together the veteran community in the National Capital Region and provided fellowship and leadership training to veterans interested in engaging in policy, politics, or government. That sounded great, but I wasn’t a veteran. So, I thought I’d ask if they would consider allowing a Gold Star spouse to participate, and they said yes! I applied to both their HillVets House Fellowship Program and HillVets LEAD program and was accepted to both.

Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone. 95% of the HillVets LEAD participants were veterans, most of them already with experience in policy. In addition, while participating as a fellow, I found that most fellows on Capitol Hill were in their twenties. Having the most important thing to undertake this adventure – my family’s support – I swallowed my pride and went to work. “Work hard, get lucky” resonated again. I kept reminding myself that this was the necessary step to gain the knowledge and experience that would allow me to better serve those I cared about. I finished the HillVets LEAD program and found an opportunity with a great office in the House of Representatives. HillVets also chose me as their fellow to represent them with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization. I learned a great deal and made wonderful friends. Then, the pandemic hit.

I had two options. Sit down and feel defeated that my Hill experience got cut short or do something about it. I started networking and keeping abreast of military and veterans’ affairs issues, policies, and developments. As I talked to people, I started to realize that others respected and appreciated my knowledge, my desire to continuously improve, and especially my most important goal – to serve. HillVets had proven to be the conduit to take me to the next level.

I am now the Executive Director of Military and Veteran Programs for Cybercrime Support Network, an organization where being a servant leader is the main expectation. And once again I know that I have to work hard because, “what got me here won’t keep me here and won’t get me there.” I will have to continue to learn and to improve. Thanks to HillVets and many other great organizations and leaders who have guided me throughout the years, I am finally at a place where I can directly help and serve the military community. Through my work, I am able to honor the memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, like my late husband.

By |2021-01-11T11:02:07-05:00January 11th, 2021|Blog|0 Comments


It’s December 31st, which means that everywhere you look, there are retrospectives and “year in review” pieces, commemorating the dumpster fire that was 2020. Frankly, I’m not interested in looking backwards at this point – this year has left its unwanted mark on all of us, and while I certainly feel grateful for the people who helped HillVets weather the storm, I’d rather turn my gaze to the horizon and think about the opportunities that a new year can bring.

Regardless of your politics – remember, we are a nonpartisan organization – a new administration AND a new Congress present many meaningful opportunities for change. I look forward to placing our new Fellows into offices around the Capitol, ensuring that the voices of veterans and military family members are heard throughout the policymaking process. Despite the fact that there are fewer veterans in the 117th Congress than at any point since WWII, I hope that by continuing to advocate for their staffs to include individuals with military ties, we can increase and expand the representation of veterans on the Hill. Their knowledge, expertise, and lived experiences are supremely valuable to the legislative process!

I am also excited to meet and work with the new leaders of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. Policy work doesn’t just happen in the legislative branch, and HillVets has been fortunate to have access to “top brass” at the agencies most impacted by the decisions that our Fellows and alumni help to make on the Hill. Ideally, there will be a commitment to collaboration between executive and legislative officials, in an effort to truly make the most positive impact on the lives of those who serve and those who support them. I am confident that the HillVets community can be valuable to executive leaders as they work to develop and implement their agenda!

While we don’t know exactly when we’ll be able to gather in person again, I look forward to the return of the HillVets 100 and our monthly networking socials! You can be sure that we won’t host those events (or any of our others) until it is definitely safe to do so, but I am optimistic that 2021 will see the return of in-person networking and celebration. In the meantime, of course, we will continue to provide creative virtual and socially distanced ways for our community to connect, learn, and grow. If you are an alum of one of our programs and you haven’t completed this survey that will help us reach and engage with you better, please consider doing so!

I hope 2021 brings success and good fortune to all of our partners! Just like we saw in 2020, I know that they will work diligently to highlight and support veterans in each of their respective industries. I also look forward to forging NEW partnerships in the new year – HillVets provides tremendous value to our sponsors and supporters, and we are always working on innovative ways to link arms with individuals and organizations who share our values.

Of course, nothing magically changes on 1/1/2021, and we know that there are still difficult times ahead. So, eat that Hoppin’ John, pop those 12 grapes, dump a bucket of water out the window, smash a plate, or do whatever you do to bring luck into the new year – the HillVets team wishes you and your families nothing but peace, prosperity, happiness, and good health in 2021.

By |2020-12-31T13:17:13-05:00December 31st, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

A Military Spouse in Congress

By Karla Langham

As a military spouse, we often put our careers on hold, press pause on finishing our education, and take time to support our spouse’s military career. We endure comments about our dependence on our servicemember and are regularly referred to as “just” a military spouse. We are told to suck it up, that we “signed up” for this, and for that reason it is completely our fault that we did not take the proper amount of time to read the fine print. There are no takebacks and there is definitely no whining.

The aforementioned is mostly true, with the exception of the “no whining.” When it comes to the lack of upward mobility in the careers of military spouses, there is definitely whining. The reality, however, is that I would not trade my experiences for any other.

My path as a military spouse has brought me through numerous entry level career paths and has led me to where I am today: a congressional staffer. It took a year and a half of living in our current duty station, to convince someone to take a chance on hiring me. When I am asked how I was able secure a position in Congress, my response is, “I have no idea. It was purely an accident;” but a happy accident that has been a continual learning curve ever since.

During my first few weeks as a Congressional staffer, I repeatedly heard the phrase “This job is like drinking from a fire hose.” I was bombarded with information every moment of every day. Learning about the district’s issues, stakeholders, friends and foes, and how to address adversity—it was overwhelming, but no different than my life as a military spouse. I was juggling issues, addressing competing needs, and working within the parameters of government entities and policies. I learned quickly that the only way to fully grasp how to do your job, is to learn-by-fire.

Luckily, I was born and bred of the “learn-by-fire” method, which proved useful the first few months of starting my job, but then came 2020. Five months into my amazing “happy accident” job, everything came to a screeching halt. COVID-19 lockdowns commenced, and I was left wondering: How would I learn-by-fire, if there was no actual fire? How would I meet others, build relationships, or grow myself professionally? I was just another face in a sea of Zoom conference calls, and I was struggling to make meaningful professional relationships. In my frustration, I vented to a friend, who introduced me to another friend, and that friend introduced me to HillVets.

When I was introduced to HillVets they had just begun their application process for the HillVets LEAD Program. I initially was hesitant to apply since I am not a veteran and just a spouse. Additionally, HillVets had only previously offered the program to those living and working in the greater Washington, DC, area. While contemplating the application process, I was invited to watch a live broadcast of HillVets LEAD Alumni discussing their experiences with the program. Among those speaking was a military spouse, who encouraged other spouses to apply. Hearing that helped calm my nerves and motivated me to submit my application.  Additionally, the HillVets team announced they would be offering the program virtually, due to the pandemic. This was even more exciting; I would get to participate from San Diego, CA.

The HillVets LEAD Program was exactly what I needed. It was a safe space to ask questions about leadership, share stories, and learn from my peers within the veteran and military community. Our cohort of protégés was able to work collaboratively on a project, pool our networks, and execute our panel for HillVets CAPCON, a leadership and policy forum that culminated the program. Through HillVets, I met people that I otherwise would have never met—which is one of my favorite experiences of the program being virtual. HillVets speakers were always impressive; they were honest and authentic. They spent their evenings speaking on their leadership experiences in D.C. and wholeheartedly believed in building allyship among veterans and veteran advocates. I walked away from the HillVets LEAD Program with lifelong friendships, mentors, invaluable tools to use on the job, and a literal home to walk into should I ever make it to the HillVets House in Washington, D.C.

HillVets has taken the time to build meaningful partnerships with senior policy experts and make them accessible to those who seek to build their skills and grow their careers. I entered the HillVets LEAD program feeling that my experiences as “just” a military spouse would not be welcomed. Instead, I fostered lifelong professional friendships, found the mentorship I was lacking, was able to build on my career and plan next steps. I would encourage anyone working in veteran programs or policy to apply to the HillVets LEAD Program and to take advantage of the program being offered virtually.

By |2020-12-04T12:58:58-05:00December 4th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Put the Giving in Thanksgiving

Generosity and gratitude have more in common than just their first letter. Generosity can certainly inspire gratitude. But does it work in reverse? Does gratitude inspire generosity? Scholarship (and personal experience) suggests that the answer is yes, and that individuals who regularly practice gratitude in their lives are more helpful and supportive. We at HillVets have been striving to make gratitude a part of our routines in a strange and challenging year. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we wanted to share what we’re thankful for AND how you can get in on the gratitude-generosity cycle and help our organization thrive in the coming months.

We are thankful for our incredible HillVets alumni, partners, and supporters. Both in DC and across the country, our community is what makes us so unique and special. Generosity abounds in this group – folks are always willing to lend a helping hand, reach across the aisle, and pay it forward to those who follow in their footsteps. We wouldn’t have been able to survive this very difficult year without the support – financial and otherwise – of our amazing community.

We are so very grateful for our program participants! Whether they are HillVets House Fellows or HillVets LEAD Protégés, they put their trust in us to help them achieve their professional goals – an act of generosity in and of itself! They are at the heart of everything we do at HillVets, and they drive us to be better, more innovative and inclusive, and as effective and supportive as we can possibly be.

We are thankful for our HillVets 100 honorees, from this past year and beyond! These exceptional individuals and groups truly represent the best of what the military and veteran communities have to offer. We cannot wait until we can gather safely again, so we can give them the recognition and celebration they richly deserve – though we’re working on some creative ways to do that in our current reality, so stay tuned for more on that in the coming weeks.

If you are as grateful as we are for HillVets and what it has contributed to your life, you can turn that gratitude into generosity! On December 1, the nonprofit community will celebrate Giving Tuesday, a global generosity movement that strives to unleash the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. Created in 2012, Giving Tuesday was a simple idea – to encourage people to do good – that has grown into a worldwide celebration that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and highlight generosity.

If you are able, we encourage you to make a gift of any size to HillVets, via our Uncommon Giving site: https://uncommongiving.com/np/hillvets-foundation. If you want to take your generosity up a notch, please consider sharing the link – and your personal HillVets story – with your friends and family! All contributions will support our impactful programs and allow us to continue our mission of serving the community of veterans, servicemembers, and supporters in our Nation’s Capitol with opportunity, mentorship, housing, peer support, and training in their pursuit of continued service in government.

From all of us at HillVets, we thank you for being a part of our family, and we wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and meaningful Thanksgiving!

By |2020-11-27T12:18:51-05:00November 27th, 2020|Blog|1 Comment

RBG’s Military Legacy

The HillVets community is well-versed in the politics and policies of both the Executive and Legislative branches of our government. The Judiciary can be a bit more of a mystery, particularly for those who did not study law. As an attorney and a professional woman, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg certainly had an impact on my life and career. But did you know that she also made a lasting impact on the military community? In addition to being a military spouse (her husband, Martin, served in the Army Reserves), RBG was involved in a number of cases that involved the military community and its policies. Here are the biggest:

Struck v. Department of Defense – Before RBG was a Supreme Court Justice, she worked for the American Civil Liberties Union. In that capacity, she represented Air Force Captain Susan Struck against the Department of Defense. Women in the military at that time were discharged for becoming mothers, which meant that pregnant women in uniform were forced to either leave the military or risk an abortion (which was illegal at that time). Captain Struck got pregnant, but as a Catholic, she would not pursue abortion, so the Air Force recommended an honorable discharge. However, Captain Struck did not want to leave the work she loved. Ginsburg won a stay (a delay, essentially) for Struck’s discharge, arguing that the only conspicuous difference between men and women was their ability to get pregnant. She also argued that no other temporary medical condition resulted in a de facto discharge, and that men in the military did not face an end to their careers when they became parents. Therefore, Struck’s constitutional rights of equal protection, privacy, and free exercise of religion were violated. Neither lower court agreed with Ginsburg’s arguments, but when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, the U.S. Solicitor General convinced the Air Force to abandon the policy. The Struck case remains largely unknown because the Supreme Court never actually heard oral arguments.

Frontiero v. Richardson – Once again, RBG’s work at the ACLU brought her to the Supreme Court, this time in a case related to military benefits. Sharron Frontiero was a lieutenant in the Air Force and applied for housing and medical benefits for her husband. While men in the military could claim their wives as dependents and get benefits for them automatically, women who served had to prove that their husbands were dependent on them for more than half their support. Frontiero marked Ginsburg’s first time delivering an actual oral argument in front of the Court. Justices Douglas, White, Marshall, and Brennan found the military’s benefit policy unconstitutional, because there was no reason why military wives needed benefits any more than military husbands. Justice Brennan also dismissed the Air Force’s argument that the policy was meant to save administrative costs by simply assuming that all wives were dependents (but not doing the same for husbands); on the contrary, by automatically granting benefits to wives who might not truly be dependents per the requirements, he said, the Air Force might actually be increasing its costs.

United States v. Virginia – Ginsburg was Justice Ginsburg when this landmark case regarding equal protection in the military reached the Supreme Court. The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) was Virginia’s only all-male public undergraduate college/university. The United States brought suit against the state of Virginia and VMI, claiming that the school’s admissions policy was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection clause. In an attempt to avoid further legal challenges, Virginia proposed to create the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) as a comparable program for women. The Court ruled 7-1 (Justice Clarence Thomas’ son attended VMI, so he recused himself) that the admissions policy was unconstitutional, and that the creation of the VWIL was not a legally sufficient way to correct that injustice. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority, held, “The VWIL program is a pale shadow of VMI in terms of the range of curricular choices and faculty stature, funding, prestige, alumni support and influence.” The VMI decision then became the benchmark case for any law that “denies to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature — equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society.” VMI toyed with the idea of going private to exempt itself from the 14th Amendment; however, after some back and forth with the Department of Defense, it began to admit women. U.S. v. Virginia continues to be taught in constitutional law courses in law schools across the country.

As you can see, Justice Ginsburg made a significant impact in the military community, particularly where women were concerned. And while the Supreme Court can seem esoteric, it is important for Americans to learn about and understand how our country’s laws are both developed AND challenged. Are there other military-related Supreme Court opinions that you find fascinating? Leave us a comment!

By |2020-11-20T11:50:33-05:00November 20th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Life on the Hill: Looking Back on a Year of Fellowship

By Chris Macleish

Working on the Hill is a pursuit rife with paradox; rewarding and frustrating, meaningful and futile, competitive and social. During my first year on the on the Hill, I met some of the most competent, motivated, and intelligent people with whom I have ever had the opportunity to work. Many of the congressional staffers I encountered during this time were as driven by public service as any member of the armed forces with whom I served – some even more so. And like the military, working on the Hill can be a profoundly rewarding experience. When I came to the Hill as a Legislative Fellow, I initially viewed it as an opportunity to broaden my perspective on government operations before joining the foreign service. By the end of my fellowship I had decided to instead pursue a career on the Hill.

As veterans, we are told that the skills we learn in the military – leadership, organization, critical thinking, etc. make us invaluable to the civilian world and highly sought after by employers. To some extent this is true; some employers do seek out veterans. But the idea that we, as veterans are entitled to start at positions of higher responsibility with higher pay by virtue of our veteran status is insulting to civilian employers and dangerous to veterans seeking employment. All veterans have a great deal to offer, but we must appreciate the come-up in any organization as much as we did in military service.

The Hill is no exception. Veterans are woefully underrepresented and are thus actively sought out by congressional offices. Depending on the way in which a veteran served, their experience and institutional knowledge of military operations can be a tremendous added value to a congressional office with national security, armed services, intelligence, maritime, or foreign affairs portfolios. Educational and personal experiences are similarly valuable – a veteran with a masters in labor relations is a double threat to an office with interests in the labor community. And all veterans, to some degree, have an understanding of one of the largest administrations in the federal government, the VA.

But the Hill is a bizarre working environment with unique rules and procedures that are frequently not written down for benefit of new employees. So, for veterans who have a desire to work on the Hill, serving as a fellow is an ideal way to get started. Fellows, even during a global pandemic, both contribute to substantive policy discussions and have the opportunity to learn the draconian rules of the Hill.  This has been a wild year and the dust has not even begun to settle from an even wilder election day. But for me, the chaos, divisiveness, and hate that has seemingly exploded across the country has only fed the bug that led me to seek opportunities on the Hill a little over one year ago. The experience has been rewarding beyond measure and it is my fervent hope that more veterans – the many veterans who are cleverer and more qualified than I am – similarly decide to avail themselves of opportunities to contribute to the work of Congress.

By |2020-11-09T08:41:06-05:00November 9th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

The New “Normal” at HillVets

By Jena Doyle

At the beginning of this month, I celebrated one year as the HillVets Director of Programs and Congressional Engagement. It’s hard to believe that that much time has actually gone by because it feels like just yesterday that I was moving back to DC!

Since I’ve been in this role, I like to think that I’ve done many things: I’ve met lots of people, have had many conversations to expand the HillVets network, have worked tremendously hard to assist our HillVets House Fellows in lading fellowships and full time positions, have assisted in the development and implementation of two HillVets LEAD cohorts, have planned events, one being a gala that never happened, and have grown our social media presence across all platforms. Not to brag or anything! But one thing that was not in the job description or something I ever would have imagined experiencing, was working through a global pandemic.

Adjusting to the current state of the world has been a challenge, but I believe that as an organization, HillVets has risen up. Though we miss our monthly community socials, we’ve added socially distanced and virtual trivia nights in its place. Instead of educational networking events, we’ve engaged with our community through webinars on interesting and relevant topics. One thing that specifically changed due to the pandemic, was HillVets LEAD and HillVets CAPCON. Our LEAD program, a unique program that focuses on leadership strategies, ethics, advocacy, and personal development, was conducted completely online. Our weekly in person meetings at HillVets House changed to Monday night Zoom sessions and our program reach was able to expand outside the DC area to include veterans and military spouses across the country. Though different than previous cohorts, this group of LEAD protégés were able to engage with highly sought-after leaders in the space and participate in meaningful and thoughtful discussions on the veteran community and policies that impact it. The program than finishes with an event that we call HillVets CAPCON.

HillVets CAPCON is a nonpartisan leadership forum created by our LEAD protégés, and presents timely, dynamic, and ripe for discussion issues faced within our veteran and military communities. Previously, CAPCON had taken place at Gallup Headquarters in downtown Washington, DC, and the Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill. Due to strict and necessary COVID-19 restrictions in place throughout the city and much to everyone’s disappointment, we were unable to secure a safe venue for this year’s CAPCON. So instead, we decided to host a virtual conference completely broadcasted on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube, while hosting a socially distanced viewing party at HillVets House.  At first, I thought, “How hard can a virtual event be?” And let me tell you, it’s harder than you’d expect!

When planning an event, there are a lot of details to work out. Such as social media promotion and hype, agenda, speakers, set up, and food. When planning a virtual event, some of these components are extremely intensified because the manner in which you are presenting the content has completely changed. For example, social media and digital communication for a virtual event is even more important because you are broadcasting the event online, and people need to be informed on how to access the event and participate. Though it was a learning process and opportunity for HillVets to reach a new and wider audience, CAPCON was a success—with just a few minor hiccups “backstage”. But hey, the beauty of a virtual event is a viewer probably couldn’t have even seen them!

As I reflect on my first year at HillVets, I think about all the things I thought this job would be and all the incredible things it has become. I am grateful to be a part of a community that adapts to the challenges and unexpecteds of the world around us. I am grateful for the opportunities to grow and learn alongside our program participants and supporters, and most of all, I am grateful for the chance to impact our veteran community one event, one fellow, or one conversation at a time.

By |2020-10-22T14:39:35-04:00October 22nd, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Summer Update: We’re Still Here!

Often, I find myself looking back at our March community social at Valor Brewpub. We were less than three weeks away from the HillVets 100 of 2019 Tribute Gala. Our socials are always high-energy, but the buzz was extra palpable. We had just onboarded a crew of new HillVets House Fellows who were all eagerly networking and lining up coffees and conversations. I’m always exhausted at the end of our socials (all of that talking takes it out of me!), but I remember feeling energized. It was inspiring to see our incredible network of supporters show up and make the kinds of connections that enable meaningful, positive change.

Of course, we all know what happened next. A week after the social, we had postponed the gala, vacated our office, and hunkered down for what we thought would be a (relatively) short shelter-in-place period. Now, four and a half months later, our gala has moved from postponed to canceled, and we are still severely limited in the kinds of activities in which we can engage. If you follow us on social media, you know that we’ve produced a variety of webinars, and we’ve rolled out Cohort 4 of HillVets LEAD in a virtual environment. But what’s next? I thought I’d provide a brief update on our operations, and then give you some feedback on how you can help HillVets continue to weather this storm.

Since I already mentioned our fellows, let’s start there! Right before the pandemic shut everything down, we were able to get a few of our new folks placed in Congressional offices, and they’ve been all kinds of busy! Unfortunately, we have a handful of fellows who didn’t find their perfect fit before hiring ground to a halt – while some of them have had to rethink their fellowship timing, some are still available! If you work on the Hill and need some help, look no further than our highly qualified HillVets House Fellows – we’d love to send you their resumes and help set up a virtual meet-and-greet.

Next up is HillVets LEAD – and by the way, if you haven’t checked out the bios of our incredible Protégés, you can do so here. Our Protégés and Ambassadors have been adjusting to the virtual environment and having some really thought-provoking discussions about leadership, policy development and implementation, and communications in the veteran and military arena. The group has finalized the theme for CAPCON (the day-long conference that is the capstone of the program): “Leading Paradigm Shifts in Military and Veteran Communities.” The group is still ironing out panels and speakers, but you can bet that the event will be relevant, timely, and full of interesting insight. Mark your calendars for September 29th, and stay tuned for more…

HillVets House has been pretty quiet lately, but we’re hoping to change that a bit in the coming weeks! The staff and fellows have worked hard to spruce up the yard, so we can be ready for some socially distanced, outdoor fun. Our trivia night on August 6th will be a hybrid event – you can come to the House and participate in person, or you can tune in and play from the comfort of your home. Also, if you are getting tired of your home office and want a change of scenery, why don’t you come work at HillVets House? Our coworking space has everything you need, and we’d love to see your faces – we’ll be operating a sign-up system, to ensure that we can maintain proper spacing, so look out for an announcement on that shortly.

We could not weather this storm without our incredible partners – THANK YOU to all of the individuals and organizations that make HillVets such a special and supportive community. If you or your company want to be a part of the family, we’d love to have you over for a tour and a chat!

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and we can’t wait to see everyone again soon. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything we can do to help!

With gratitude,

Betty Rhoades

By |2020-07-27T09:32:18-04:00July 27th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Getting Through COVID-19 Isolation

By: Conner Swett, HillVets Fellow

On the first day of my fellowship in early February, my supervisor assigned me to “track this coronavirus that is happening in China. I don’t know much about it, but I believe it can get big.” Oh, how she was right.

We are living in exciting times. COVID-19 has taken hold and forced us to be isolated from our friends and, for some of us, our families. The news tells us that it is getting worse, the White House is sending mixed messages, and misinformation is filling up social media. It has been a little more than a month, March 12th, when I last went into work for my HillVets Fellowship. The subject of my daily updates has become the thing that put my fellowship on hold, and it sucks.

It was bearable the first week with my friend Netflix, but by Week 2, I needed to create a new routine to get me through this crisis. Leaning on my Marine Corps values and the Stoic teachings, I decided to focus on five things to help me get through this time indoors. For anyone that listened to HillVets Founder Justin Brown’s April 8th webinar or read the works of Ryan Holiday, some of these will be familiar.

Morning Routine

I have been a longtime fan of these. My morning is an essential part of my day because it’s for me, not for the world. I don’t want to look at my phone, nor do I want to turn on the TV right away. I believe it’s essential to have an hour where you can make breakfast and relax before starting work. I would feel stressed if I went from my bed straight to my computer for work. Additionally, before I start work, I review my list of things I need to do and make edits. Now my day has begun.

Set Goals

Goals are essential for me to feel productive. We don’t know how long this will last, but it doesn’t mean this time has to be wasted. By making some long-term improvement goals that I want to accomplish, I am then able to make weekly checkpoints that will help me reach those goals. Call it pride, narcissism, or just motivation, but when this is over, I hope to be more impressive over someone who is solely streaming.

Turn Off Social Media

I use Facebook Messenger to stay in contact with friends and family members during these trying times, but I find little comfort with scrolling through my feed. For Instagram and Twitter, I try to avoid opening the apps. We can do without a meme or snippy tweet that we probably won’t remember when this is over. Replace short-term feelings of joy, with goals that will bring long-term happiness.


Reading has become very important to me during these last few weeks. While Netflix occupied my time the first week, I now turn on some background music and pick up something to read instead. I used to hear people say that they didn’t have time to read, but now what is their excuse? I suggest finding a book and a magazine or journal to read, this way you have a balance between long and short reads.

Find something fun to do!

Despite all this stuff, it’s essential to take a break and have some fun. If you have a backyard, then play in it, or do a workout. If you play video games, then take some time to play that after work. Or arrange a virtual hangout with your friends to catch up. This time stuck indoors shouldn’t just be work and goals.

How are YOU getting through isolation? Share your tips in the comments!

By |2020-04-20T11:45:21-04:00April 20th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Reflections on Community

By Jena Doyle

I was raised in a small town just south of Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up with two loving parents, a twin sister, and an older brother. When I was younger, I thought I’d grow up to be famous. I had not based that on any talent or skill that I performed extremely well, I just thought that it would be fun.

Though I’m not famous yet, I did study International Relations and Spanish at American University, and just last year I was teaching English to University students in Quito, Ecuador. If you had asked me if I would then transition to a position working for a veteran focused non-profit, I would have shrugged my shoulders, and said, “Eh, who knows?”

Well, I guess I knew a little bit, because here I am, the Director of Programs and Congressional Engagement for HillVets.

Coming from a Catholic family, I grew up going to church every Sunday. One of the first memories that comes to my mind when I think about that church, is the older couple who, during every service, sat behind my family and me. My Nana always made conversation with them, they lived up the street from her. What I distinctly remember about the man, is he always had on his Korean War Veteran VFW hat. Of course, he took it off while in church, but it always sat proudly next to him. He even on occasion, wore his green VFW jacket to match, with pins and decals covering the sleeves. At first, I thought it meant he belonged to a club of some sorts. I had seen other older men throughout my town with the same hat or jacket and simply thought that if they wore the same clothes; they must be a similar type of person. So, one day, I asked my Dad what this club really meant. He explained to me that those men were veterans, meaning that they fought in wars to protect our country because they were called to serve.

Veterans. Huh, I thought.

Later in conversation, my dad mentioned that my own Grandfather, who had died before I was born, was a veteran.

There it was, that word again!

I came to learn that he too had served in Korea, as a cooks mate with the Army. His two older brothers also served in World War II. In 1945, when the United States liberated Germany, my Great Uncle George’s Army Battalion was one of the first to the camps, where they were responsible for burying the bodies of the dead. He came home a lost, distraught, and silent man. Those of that generation of veterans returned to a community of individuals who had experienced the same things, a group of people that they could rely on for support.

My Grandfather came home from Korea and struggled to adjust. He eventually found community in his generation of veterans, just as his brothers did and the man in my church.

After my Dad shared these stories with me, the word veteran made a bit more sense to me. Though I didn’t actually know the intricacies of what it meant to truly be a veteran, what it meant to sacrifice for your country, I understood that they were connected through community.

When I first came to HillVets, I was worried that I would feel like an outsider because I myself was not a veteran and would not be able to relate to the experiences of those around me. But what I found in HillVets and the greater veteran space, was a community that had room for individuals of all different backgrounds, and all different stories and experiences, that were able to come together simply on the basis of wanting to support one another.

I quickly came to realize that the things that I had worried about knowing, didn’t matter as much, and that though being a veteran is a huge part of an individual’s identity, it’s not the only way you can connect with them. I learned to listen and understand and empathize with the stories and experiences that were shared with me, and a desire to fight for the achievement of their own goals grew within me.

The community that HillVets has built is the heartbeat of our organization. It is a “veteran club” that is inclusive to veterans and service-members who want to make an impact through policy. But it’s also a community of supporters and allies, who want to fight for those veterans and their voice in policy.

I think about the man from my church more frequently, my grandfather, too. They found support through their own club of veterans, their own community who shared similar experiences. In the years since their war experiences, the idea of a veteran community has grown tremendously. There are so many to be a part of! Though I wonder how different their veteran experience would have been like if they had had a community like the HillVets one, a community to raise them up, to support their aspirations, and to advocate for their voice.

By |2020-04-06T16:29:25-04:00April 6th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments
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