By Danielle Davis, Bayonet & Saber /
Paulette Montgomery’s journey with the military began when she was 30 years old.
“I was working at First National Bank in the commercial credit department. And at the time I was thinking that I was going to go back to school and get my master’s. I had been considering going Reserves, and then at the last minute decided to become active,” Montgomery said.
She was eventually promoted to sergeant, became a motor pool sergeant, and then decided to become a warrant officer.
“I had great mentors around me at the time. Getting my master’s became less important because I’d landed in a spot that I was enjoying and the different opportunities that were presented to me,” she said.
“During my time in the military, I also became the first African-American woman to embrace 919A as an engineer repairs technician out at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri,” Montgomery explained.
Montgomery described her Fort Leonard Wood experience as slightly stressful. The pressure of making history weighed on her. She retired from the military as chief warrant officer 2 in 2013.
“Like anyone who retires, I experienced a little anxiety. But life has continued to be fulfilling. I’ve been given the opportunity to do a variety of things, like fall back on my passions which include writing, performing and poetry,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery said that being retired has offered the chance to find her voice and help others do the same.
“When I convinced myself that I could write and perform poetry, I started right at Fort Benning and while I was deployed,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery credits her time in the military for inspiring several of the pieces she’s written.
“Being in the military, going to different places and being at war allows your mind to expand in a way you didn’t think it could. Once you come back, you realize that the mind is a powerful muscle but it can only absorb so much,” she said.
Montgomery said that the “hidden ailments” Soldiers suffer with are a key element in writing as well.
“People don’t always see your anxiety. They don’t know or understand that the war has affected you in different ways. The post-traumatic stress disorder, things they feel responsible for like if a fellow Soldier got hurt,” she said.
In one of her pieces, Back from War, Montgomery writes, “Back from war, three times I’ve stored things deep within the cranium walls. It’s like an overstuffed closet, trying to shut the door before things fall. I can’t get a grip.”
Montgomery encourages people who are retiring to take a moment for themselves and breathe.
“You’re starting a new journey. And if there’s anything you wanted to do before the military don’t be afraid to go back to that. Fear is our biggest enemy. You won’t know that you can be successful at something until you try,” she said.