BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Tanya Whitney had worked 28 years with the US Army and Army National Guard. She'd served most recently a second deployment to Iraq and time in Afghanistan. She had assignments in Africa, Honduras, and domestically in her younger years. She served time at Fort Eustis, Virginia by managing fixed wing aircraft maintenance at the US Army Aviation facility in Huntsville, Alabama, and she met her husband, also military, while serving in New Orleans.
When Tanya's retirement came in 2010, she briefly worked as a civilian for the Army in Huntsville, Alabama. But, she told me it stretched her family between two states. She mainly worked as there was a waiting period before the Veterans Administration would establish her level of disability.
She suffered injury and PTSD. When the news came from the VA, her disability had been rated at 80 percent, Tanya retired, rejoining her family. This is when Tanya became a volunteer, serving in honor guards for public events. She speaks at Veterans events all over the Baton Rouge area to promote understanding of the military experience.
She's also Chairman of the VFW auxiliary's Senior Bingo every second Monday of the month. The Auxiliary hosts about 100 seniors for the game night. They serve cake and treats, and on holidays, they give their Bingo attendees a holiday meal with all the trimmings.
Tanya has helped build wheelchair ramps and has organized programs that inform children about what the military does.
Whitney said that she is chairman for the committee that manages the Ascension Parish Veterans Park.
Under the cover of beautiful trees, different theaters of battle in the World Wars and more modern conflicts are commemorated on a walking path.
Whitney wears her military dress uniform to accept new donated bricks for the plaza. Families pay for production of the bricks, with the rich terracotta color blending with the natural settings. The tiered display makes a seating area for an outdoor amphitheater.
She and her husband worried the grass might not be perfect before the WAFB cameras arrived, so they came out and mowed the grass before we got there! Tanya tells me that she suffered PTSD as well has body injury and that volunteer work gently helped her.
"It wasn't like when I was at work, or getting thrown into a group where I wasn't comfortable. So it gave me an ability to pick and choose what I wanted to do, what I felt up to doing at that time."
One of her most surprising volunteer projects? Volunteer coach for St Amant High School's cross country! She says that coaching is something she started when her daughter was in high school.
Her daughter, now an adult, is her partner in the volunteer coaching.
Tanya says that kids who run cross country are usually in love with running, that they carry their success or failure on their own shoulders. Whitney jokes with them but also moves them through stretching exercises, with her much younger adult daughter doing those moves with the runners. It's in the morning sun glow, with Tanya's husband looking on that I truly realize the joy Whitney feels in volunteering.
Life after the Army is rich for Tanya Whitney, because she loves to give of her time.