Angel Blog

A Tribute to Our Heroes: Army Veteran Tevin Thomas

In this latest episode of “A Tribute to Our Heroes,” we talk with Army Veteran Tevin and Tara, the Angel volunteer who helped Tevin through his deployment and continued to support him as he transitioned.

Tevin shares about his deployment, the support he received from Soldiers’ Angels, and his transition from the Army to the civilian world. Tara details her start with Soldiers’ Angels, how her and her team supported Tevin throughout his deployment, and what their relationship means to her.

You can view our full video interview with Tevin and Tara below.

Continue reading for excerpts from the interview with Tevin.

Q: What made you want to join the military, more specifically the Army?

Tevin: Growing up I had kind of a hard life that had a lot of obstacles in it, but something that was always there for me was someone to support me through it. I finished my high school career living with my football coach and then a couple of years after I actually graduated high school my papa passed away and he was actually in the Navy. So these two things kind of came together and I always knew I wanted to do something to give back to all of the different individuals that helped me get through all the obstacles in my life. So I thought I should join the military as I had no one else in my family in the military at the time. I went to the recruiter’s office, took all of the tests, and chose infantry. My recruiter was like, “How do you feel about being airborne?” I tried to say “Well, I’m terrified of heights, so I don’t think that’s gonna work out for me.” But he eventually convinced me to go Airborne. And the rest is history. I went down to Bragg, did the infantry basic OSIT, and then went Airborne and ended up in the 82nd. I think that the way my life played out and the fact that there was always someone there to help me through anything really gave me the passion and want to go help people. When you think about America, being in the military you are serving every single person in America, what better way to give back to your country than to join the military?

Q: Where did you get deployed to?

Tevin: In 2019 I got deployed to Afghanistan as an 82nd attachment to two different special forces groups. I was there from June until late December.

Q. Go Ahead and tell us a little bit about that; how your experience went, and eventually how you ended up getting in contact with Soldiers’ Angels and how Tara ended up helping you out.

Tevin: I spend a lot of time running combat missions, trying to help the partner force, and basically helping the Afghan population. Something that really stood out to me is how much is taken for granted in America. Being in Afghanistan for six months and getting to see how it operates there was really eye-opening and really made me realize how good I had it in America. Being able to sleep in a bed, being able to make the choices I wanted to make, being able to wear what I wanted to wear. Something that really, really changed my life while I was there is that I was down range when my 2nd child was born, and this was a really big deal to me because growing up the way I did, family was always going to be the number one priority in my life. I knew that the type of man I wanted to be was someone who was always going to be there for my kids, my wife, and my family. I felt like missing that birth was just a huge punch in the gut. That’s something that goes on a lot in the military and people don’t think about it. In the military, you spend a lot of time away and one of the things that is promised is you get those days off to go see your child be born, and unfortunately, I didn’t get to do that. That was a big time that Soldiers’ Angels really helped me, I think I ran into Soldiers’ Angels around August or September, my mom registered me and said “Hey, they’re going to send you letters, we’re gonna get you in contact with these individuals and they’re gonna be there for you.” At the time I just got transitioned back from downrange to being in charge of an airfield so I was sitting behind a computer most of the time rather than running missions. That’s when I met Tara, and we started emailing back and forth and it was a very needed relationship for me. I was deployed, in charge of a bunch of soldiers, but my heart was still at home where my 2nd child had been born. Being sponsored by soldiers’ angels and communicating with Tara constantly, we weren’t talking about how hard it was over there or anything. The constant support, I could always look forward to an email, every day, whether it was “Hi”, “How are your children”, or sending me pictures, it was so motivating to me that I had this whole support of people who did not know who I was, they just signed up because they wanted to help Service Members, and eventually became family to me. Waiting for their letters and boxes was something that I really looked forward to each and every time. The biggest thing I remember was getting a blanket, in Afghanistan you don’t think about blankets, Getting that blanket, just made me feel like I was at home. I actually left it with another soldier before I left. Tara told me they wanted to send me another package when I got home. They sent me another blanket, and I’ve kept it here for 3 or 4 years now. It’s something that has motivated me to find way a way to do that for other soldiers too. It’s more than a blanket, it’s not just a sponsorship, it’s a family. You get so much support from everywhere, I can’t thank Soldiers’ Angels enough.

Q: Tara, how did you get started with Soldiers’ Angels, how did you have such a big impact on Tevin?

Tara: I had accepted a position where I had a long commute and I was no longer able to participate in service projects and charity events that I had previously. So I thought, “I need something that is flexible and I can do on my own time”. So I started with Soldiers’ Angels on the Letter Writing Team and spent some time doing that, but felt the nudge to incorporate the Deployed Adoptions Team. Tevin was the very first soldier that I selected from the database, he was selected because we share the same initials. I did reach out to his mom, because the email provided was a female name, and she was so excited, and we were put in contact pretty quick after the selection. I was just excited, at the time I was in charge of a team at work and thought “Well, this will be a good opportunity for us as a work team to do something, a cohesive activity, as well as provide the support for a soldier.” When I presented the idea they were all excited about it, there were a lot of military connections in the team. We were able to provide him with letters that weren’t just about my life every two weeks. I did allow them to write letters and I sent those, we did put a box right in front of my office with his picture on it. We all signed up to bring things from his wishlist and once it was filled, I sent it out. We were fortunate, especially being my first soldier, that Tevin had access to email so we could fairly easily communicate. I remember those same stories, and I’m going to carry those memories with me throughout my life, I will not forget our conversations. Tevin has a wonderful sense of humor and is a very creative writer, so it was very fun on my side. He sent us pictures when he received one of the boxes and that was really fun for us to see.

Q: Tevin, you are in Afghanistan, you are getting all of this support, so how did your time end there?

Tevin: My transition was a little bumpy because I came back right at the end of 2019, right when the pandemic started heating up. I was tasked with the goal of getting out of the military and moving across the country back to Indiana within about three months. That became quite difficult when the country shut down because Fort Bragg, now Fort Liberty, shut down as well. The way out of the military was quite bumpy, but something I take from that experience is that I really felt what it’s like for a Soldier to transition out with like no support. I spent about 6 months just trying to figure out what I was going to do, and how my life was going to go, just processing that and getting through it was a very difficult time for me, but it is something I look back on now and think it really prepared me for what I want to do in my life, giving me the vision of what it’s like for Service Members to come out with some support, but not enough support. It taught me different ways that America can help transitioning Soldiers out. One of the biggest heartbreaks I felt while transitioning out was another Soldier I deployed with, one of my best friends also got out during the pandemic. Unfortunately, he went back to the place he was at before he deployed and ended up OD’ing on Veterans Day. That really sparked me to find the resources and see the different ways you can combine resources for transitioning Soldiers. I felt my life had always been full of obstacles that I needed to surpass and I always have. People like me who make it through all of these hardships and obstacles are given the chance to come back and teach others. Say, “This is how it went for me, this is how I got through it, how can we help others who will go through the same thing?” The transition out of the military and into civilian life is not an easy one, it’s a whole different world. In a way, I’m humbled and glad it was me who went through it in order to gain the knowledge of what it’s like.

Q: When you were transitioning out, did you stay in contact with Tara?

Tevin: Yeah, we’ve stayed in contact pretty much the whole time I’ve been out. When I need someone to talk to, need that extra push, or need some motivation to get through whatever it is in front of me, that’s when I hit TT up and say “You got some time to video? I’m trying to work on this giant thing where I can envision it but can’t figure out where the steps are.” She’s always there to support. Sometimes I have to take a different perspective on things. She’s someone that will sit there and listen and say “How will that work, how will this work, what will you do here.” I am so appreciative of Tara and the way that she has stuck with me and she is definitely an overachiever for Soldiers’ Angels. It’s a family relationship that’s going to last forever and the memories are something that keeps me going through the hard times.

Q: Tara how does that make you feel? How does that translate on your side? Is there something that sparked this or did you just want to give back?

Tara: I just wanted to give back. I am so proud of Tevin, was when he was deployed, and am even more so now. As he mentioned we have communicated since he returned. You have such big goals and you’re gonna crush all of them and are gonna succeed. I’m definitely gonna keep my eye on you for that reason, but also I’m a fan for life, and I’m here to support you as you need.

Q: What’s going on with you right now, Tevin? What are you currently doing and what do you have planned for the future?

Tevin: In July I finished my Associate’s Degree in Psychology, right now I’m getting an Associate’s in Criminal Justice which I plan on transferring over to a four-year college and getting a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice and starting a public relations company that focuses on community-collaboration and cohesion. One of the big things I want to implement is the slogan “Learn anything to help anyone.”

Q: What does it mean to you to be a Veteran?

Tevin: To be a Veteran is to wake up and know what you did that impacted America. When you look at the flag you can look at it in a different way. I look at the flag as “I sacrificed my time for every single person in this country”. That is one of the biggest and greatest things you can do in America. There’s nothing else like being a Veteran because people like Tara… The biggest thing that Veterans can take away is that you never take anything for granted after you join the military. Once you’re out, everything means a lot to you, conversations, food, your bed, relationships, just waking up and seeing your loved ones every day.

From the whole Soldiers’ Angels team, we want to thank Tevin for his service to our nation and to his Angel, Tara, for her dedication to supporting Tevin and other military-connected individuals. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss an episode of our “A Tribute to our Heroes” series.

Want to watch more? Click here to watch more vlogs from the Tribute to our Heroes series.