Leader Spotlight: Tammy Barlet

Our Leader Spotlights offer a glimpse into our diverse leadership: veterans who are continuing to serve their country and community in creative ways. Today, we profiled Tammy Barlet, United States Coast Guard veteran and VFAI leader based in both Washington, DC and Pennsylvania.

1.     Tell me about your military service. (What branch? When and where did you serve? Why did you join the military?)

The two most important reasons I enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1995 were the promise of college tuition assistance and the opportunity to travel beyond my small hometown but stay stateside.

As an operation specialist aboard the United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Chase (WHEC-718), traveling halfway around the world twice was the last thing that I thought would happen. However, I soon found myself on patrols in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and travelling to Alaska, Thailand, and the Persian Gulf. During my time on the Cutter Chase, I participated in numerous tactical operations such as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT 97, Southeast Asia) and Military Interdiction Operations (MIO, Persian Gulf). The Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation from Vice Admiral Kendall L. Card, Distinguished Coast Guard Battle “E” Ribbon, Coast Guard Special Operations, and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal were only a sample of the medals and ribbons I earned while on board the Chase.

My last duty station was at Vessel Traffic Service Houston/Galveston, where I directed over two hundred ships and tows per shift through the 54 mile-long Houston Ship Channel. Being stationed at a land unit gave me opportunities to participate in such temporary duties stations as the USCGC Eagle (WIX-327)—where I spent one summer training academy cadets—and in New Orleans during two Mardi Gras seasons with the SARCats. Before my medical discharge in 2003, I was awarded Sailor of the Quarter in 2001 and the Coast Guard Achievement Medal in 2003 for my actions in de-escalating an incident which could quickly have become a Homeland Security Threat.

2.     How did your service shape the person you are today?

The Coast Guard motto of “Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty”.” So, whenever we went on a humanitarian mission, I lived that motto by being one of the first to volunteer. From painting walls and playing with HIV+ children at an orphanage in Guatemala, to delivering teddy bears to a children’s hospital in Australia, and doing barn work with abused and neglected horses in Texas. This was the most rewarding work I did in the military

Like many others who served, I am often thanked for my service. I learned over the years to accept people's gratitude and to reply by adding, “…but, I’m not done yet.” Today, my service continues by volunteering with several veteran service organizations. I’ve noticed, over the years, that service is a way to help others while keeping that sense of purpose I felt in the military. Helping others helps me by lessening my depressive symptoms and increasing my overall wellbeing.

3.     As a veteran, what sort of responsibility do you feel to speak up on issues that relate to American ideals?

During our service, we often followed the person with the loudest voice, or we were that voice, giving orders and staging the charge. Now, as a veteran, when I raise my voice, others listen. Veterans are given a platform in our society, so I intend to use it to for the better of my community. It’s my hope that by speaking out, that others will join me in my charge.

4.     Tell me about one issue related to those ideals that is of particular importance or concern to you right now. What are you doing about it?

As a public health professional, I often view things through the lens of health and wellbeing. Refugees face countless challenges—from trauma, extreme stress and difficult transitions—which can manifest in their physical health. These are some of the same challenges that veterans face. So, I believe there is great potential for the two communities to listen to, pool resources with, and support one another.

The first step to understand these challenges, is listening to and sharing our stories without prejudice and with an open mind and heart.

5.     What would you say to other veterans about the role that they can play in these issues as citizens?

Continue your service to your community, get involved, and make your voice heard by listening to others’ stories and then sharing your own.

A great way to do that is to attend an SIV Sips event. By engaging with another person over a hot beverage not only warms the body and mind but warms the soul. If your area does not have an SIV Sips event, start one!