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Redefining Your Future Symposium

Military woman redefine their futures

Shellie Willis leads the Redefining Your Future Symposium at the Washington National Guard Aviation Readiness Center Wednesday. Photo courtesy JBLM PAO

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Two years into the biannual Redefining your Future Symposium -- an event aimed at helping transitioning military women, veterans and military spouses prepare for change -- more than 30 participants showed up at the Washington National Guard Aviation Readiness Center on Lewis Main Wednesday morning for the two-day event.

Some attendees looked a bit wary of what was to occur, and others were more than a little excited. Within moments of symposium founder Shellie Willis taking the stage, most seemed ready to follow her lead and break out in applause, laughter, cheers and dance.

"Who doesn't like change? Who is a control freak?" Willis asked the crowd, to which most held one hand up high. "If you are a control freak, you're in the right place."

Whether one likes to be in charge of their future or just go with the flow, no one is ever in control of everything in their life, Willis said; that's especially true for service members and military spouses.

"We have to be able to shift at a moment's notice," she said.

Although many of the event's guest speakers were women, recently retired I Corps Chief Warrant Officer 3 Larry Delgado got the event off to a lively start. Delgado danced onto the stage and began telling stories of his childhood and the women who were inspirational in his life, including his wife, mother and grandmother.

Delgado also talked of his Nicaraguan heritage and immigrant parents, growing up in Florida and his father being an alcoholic who later changed his life by attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

"Knowing you have the will to take something as horrible as that and change, well, that says a lot about my dad - and that's success," Delgado said.

Each of the speakers were given a letter from the word summit to create their speech around. As the first speaker, Delgado had the letter "S" for which he built his speech around the "S" in success.

"When I turned 40, I started running marathons," Delgado said, adding that his theme song became "All I do is win." "That's what we need to do to succeed, focus on a goal and win."

Several attendees had a goal in mind, including Kharyna Jensen, wife of Lt. Col. Wylie Jensen, deputy engagements officer for I Corps. The couple met in Ecuador while Jensen was stationed there.

They've been married nearly 14 years and have two sons, ages 9 and 11. The family moved to JBLM one year ago, after three years in Belgium.

Jensen will be retiring in 2019, and his wife is more than a little scared of the upcoming transition, she said.

Kharyna said her goal is to make the transition easy on her husband, so he doesn't end up bored and grumpy. She can remember her own dad became bored and grumpy after he retired from the Ecuadorian Army when she was a child.

"Oh, my husband is nothing like my dad," she said, "But, I'm just worried when he gets out of the Army, it will be a big change for him. I'm OK with change, but it's easier for me, and this is a humongous change."

Captain Domanie Granger, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, also attended the event hoping to eliminate some of the worries associated with transitioning out of the military.

Granger grew up as a military kid and spent much of her time in California and Ohio while her dad was in the Navy. She has been stationed at JBLM since June 2015 and plans to transition out in a few months, after 12 years of service. She previously served in the Army National Guard and commissioned as an officer through ROTC.

"Most of my life has been in the military," she said, adding a friend told her about the symposium and suggested she attend. "I don't know a lot about (Redefining Your Future), but I'm hopeful it will help me get ready for my transition."

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