LaRhonda Hamilton made her high school decision to join the military. However, she admits that was not the typical reason “to serve my country”; At least not at first. Hamilton made the decision when she was 18 because she wanted to go to college and see the world.
“I knew the army would be my outlet; it wasn’t until later that I learned the importance of being a soldier and protecting my country and our freedom,” Hamilton said.
After graduating from Crockett High School, Hamilton enlisted in the military and boarded a plane for the first time to fly to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training. . Hamilton never intended to serve more than four years, but says she was thrilled to do things she never imagined she would do.
“I had no intention of serving more than four years in the army. I’m an only child and felt like I had something to prove to myself and others, so I knew failing was not an option,” she said. “But I was doing things that I had never done before, like running two miles non-stop, walking five miles in combat boots, standing guard in the snow, shooting a gun, fixing a gun, everything. was a great experience.”
Hamilton said there was a defining moment for her in basic training that carries her to this day.
“The moment I conquered the Victory Tower obstacle course in basic training, I knew I could conquer anything I wanted,” she said.
Hamilton then spent the next 20 years, four months and eight days serving his country and traveling the world.
“My most beautiful memory, of course, was meeting new people, but also being able to travel to places like Paris, Spain, Holland, Italy, I would never have had this opportunity to travel the world if I hadn’t joined the military,” she said.
While still in the military, Hamilton completed an internship as a professor of criminal justice. She knew from an early age that she wanted to serve in the field of education.
“I knew when I was 6 that I wanted to be a teacher, I just didn’t know what I wanted to teach,” she said.
“While I was still in the military, stationed in Texarkana, I interned as a professor of criminal justice just to see if it was something I wanted to do when I retired. from the army, after a one-year internship, I was hired as an assistant professor,” Hamilton said. “When I retired from the army, I started working as an investigator on child abuse for the state of Arkansas, and from there I started teaching criminal justice at a high school and then moved to Tyler.”
In 2017, Hamilton began teaching criminal justice at Tyler Junior College. Hamilton said becoming a teacher is one of his greatest accomplishments.
“The greatest achievement of my current career is becoming a teacher, I always wanted to be a teacher to help mold and mold minds to a higher level,” she said. “I’ve definitely taken the long scenic road to get where I am, but I see my vision coming to fruition.”
Hamilton said she knew she was tracking her call after she started receiving thank you and appreciation notes.
“The moment I started getting unsolicited letters, cards and emails from my students thanking me and expressing their appreciation and telling me that I was the reason they had decided to pursue their careers in criminal justice,” she said. “It sets me apart because they see that I’m an educator who really cares about them and their choices.”
Hamilton attributes much of his success in teaching to his time in the military.
“I gained valuable training and experience that definitely helped me grow into the person I am today, it taught me leadership skills and helped build my character. Looking back back after joining the army at the age of 18 and retiring at 39, i look back with no regrets, i am grateful to the army for the training, skills and experiences i gained “, she said. “I served as a soldier and now I serve the community in which I live.
Hamilton, now 52, continues to serve in the community beyond her teaching profession. She founded and founded the East Texas Association of Black in Criminal Justice. She, together with her sorority, established Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc, a youth auxiliary of young women ages four to 18. She also founded and chairs the Veterans Banquet under the auspices of the Empowerment Community Development Corporation, honoring organizations. who support veterans and who sit on several boards and committees whose missions are to serve others.
Hamilton said this year has been particularly rewarding.
“It has been a rewarding year alone, I have been honored as one of the Women with a Voice by Women In Tyler, received the Endowed Teaching Excellence Award from Tyler Jr. College and several other awards and accolades, which It’s great to be recognized for hard work, but I’m not doing it for the recognition, but because I love serving the community,” she said.
Hamilton, who achieved the rank of staff sergeant during her service, said this time of year makes her extremely proud.
“Veterans Day is synonymous with freedom, sacrifice and honor. We had to leave our families behind to fight for our country, as a veteran we deserve respect, recognition and recognition,” Hamilton said. “It reminds me of the service and pride I felt when I was in uniform, and now.”
Hamilton said she will continue to push her limits and go beyond them to be of service to her community and those around her.
“My goals are to continue to put myself in awkward positions that take me out of my comfort zone, the more I step out of my comfort zone the more I feel like I can be of service to others,” a- she declared.
“I see myself as a community leader and servant. Serving is part of me, I served my country and now I serve my community,” Hamilton said.