Lila Holley said she was 100 percent invested in the military during her 22-year Army career.
But when she retired as a chief warrant officer, she felt lost.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “It was like I had no purpose anymore. I felt invisible.”
That’s when Holley began writing about the transition from the military to civilian life.
“Transition is a real thing. It can be an extremely hard thing,” said Holley, who was the guest speaker Thursday at the annual Black History Month luncheon at the Frontier Conference Center on Fort Leavenworth.
She has gone on to write four books about transition and other challenges shared by military veterans in her Camouflaged Sisters book series.
Her work tackles real-life lessons she has learned from her own struggles, including the emotional battlefield of transitioning from the military.
She said “migration of the mind” is necessary in dealing with the challenges of leaving the military.
Army veteran Ashley Knight said she experienced the same struggles during her transition out of the military after a 10-year career.
“I felt depressed, suicidal,” Knight said.
That’s when she found Holley’s book, “Battle Buddy.”
“That book literally saved my life,” Knight said. “It showed me that I was not alone. It showed me that there was a way forward after my transition.”
Holley said she often hears from readers who are inspired by her work.
“They really motivate me,” Holley said. “It’s a sisterhood.”
The theme for this year’s luncheon was “Black Migrations.”
Holley talked about the “migration of our minds” as it applies to the experiences of African-Americans.
She said Africans taken into bondage by slave traders and brought to the Americas “migrated their minds in the sense that they may have been in physical bondage but they migrated/elevated their minds to survival mode.”
She also talked about being a teen mother from a large city before she enlisted in the Army.
“I was a teen mother and carried a lot of personal and emotional baggage with me when I entered the Army,” she said. “My (superiors) saw a lot of potential in me, at times seeing more than I saw myself. It wasn’t until I was promoted to sergeant ahead of my peers that my mind migration caught up with the progress of my career.”