Encouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives a DERRICK Interview by asking 7 questions through each letter of his first name to give you an insightful perspective from other experts, entrepreneurs, celebrities and up and coming super stars.
Today’s DERRICK Interview is with Miyoko Hikiji who joined the active duty Army in 1995 and served three years as a supply clerk at military bases in Louisiana and Texas before returning to her home state of Iowa where she attended Iowa State University. While studying journalism and mass communication and psychology, she continued to serve part-time with the Iowa Army National Guard as a supply clerk and truck driver. She deployed to Iraq for a year from 2003-04 and her experience as a female combat veteran is the crux of her memoir titled “All I Could Be: My Story as a Woman Warrior in Iraq.”
Miyoko was honorable discharged after 9 years of service, with 12 military decorations, and since 2005 she has worked as a writer, actress and model.
Miyoko is an advocate for veterans, especially in the areas of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and Suicide. These topics, which effect a large percentage of the military population from the previous decade of wars, are the subjects she is investigating for her second book.
D is for Dream. What is your dream, goals or what have you achieved?
My dream is to be open minded to the gifts of the people and the world around me to live with an attitude of gratitude for the blessings of my life. I want to connect the strengths and talents of people in order to close the gaps and met needs, whether they be business, financial, social or emotional. I want to make a difference, no matter how small, each day, turning negative energy to positive in the world we share.
My goals, more concretely, are to pursue a master’s degree in journalism or creative writing, write a second non-fiction book, a sequel to my deployment memoir about post traumatic stress, military sexual drams, substance abuse and all the related challenges of veterans, especially women veterans, reintegrating to civilian life.
I want to continue to raise the awareness and education of the non-uniformed population about these issues and be a leader in the non-governmental, non-profit initiatives to help struggling veterans now.
Earlier in the year, my first book, “All I Could Be: My Story as a woman in Iraq,” was published by History Publishing. It was a tremendous undertaking, but I can see now, that writing a book was only the launching pad for a much larger mission. I have joined forces with seven women vets to form the first National Women Veterans Speakers Bureau aimed at promoting a positive image of women and I am also the spokesperson for the military sexual trauma initiative for the Veterans National Recovery Center.
E is for Education. What is your educational background and how do you use it daily?
I have two BS degrees from Iowa State University in Journalism and Mass Communication and Psychology. My media studies got me in the habit of scanning news stories, asking questions others are uncomfortable asking and many are hesitant to answer in plain truth. It also taught me to be a lifelong student of life to always wonder, search and learn.
My psychology studies helped me to view many mental disorders as challenges instead of illnesses, and many as manageable and treatable. Particularly in the realm of traumatic stress. I saw how the brain and body’s reaction was a normal response to extraordinary circumstances and that social support and help with others stressors, like homelessness or unemployment, can have a significant impact in helping a person win back their best self.
Through both courses of study, I learned to listen compassionately to the stories of others. Everyone has a great story inside.
R is for Resource. What resources do you bring to the table that makes you unique or stand out?
My greatest resources are my abilities to communicate with clarity and passion as a writer and a speaker. What is unique about me is the fact that I have lived a soldier’s story, but don’t look like GI Joe. In fact, I now work part-time as an actress, a profession that some would label as quite opposite military life. I see the two as having similarities life. There’s a different set of skills and a different uniform, but a similar level of commitment and preparedness. Good soldiers don’t miss “mission time”working actresses don’t miss “call time.” Both also require a high level of boldness and ability to think on your feet.
R is for Ready. When did you realize you were ready for what you are doing now?
I knew I was both ready and moving in the direction of my destiny when I got those first few calls for interviews about my book prior to its publication. Some of the interview questions were difficult, complex or personal but I felt comfortable, articulate and in the right place at the right time. It was time to raise the visibility of women in the military and I suddenly knew I was supposed to be a part of that movement. It was powerful feeling.
I is for Individual. Name at least one individual in your network that others should learn more about and why?
Photographer Ben Easter. I have a soft place in my heart for artists, of all mediums, that use their talents to not only express beauty and emotion, but do so for a greater good. Ben has a beautiful spirit and easily connects with people through the lens of his camera to tell their stories. He has generously donated his time, talent and resources to create exhibits to raise money for children with Down Syndrome and children with an incarcerated parent. He also photographed my book cover, which I constantly receive compliments for. Though Ben is already highly successful, I anticipate seeing his name attached to many projects in the future and I look forward to celebrating those with him and hopefully working with him again.
C is for Challenges. What challenges have you had to overcome?
I came from a fairly large family of five brothers and sisters and I was the youngest. So, there was a lot of competition for my parents attention and considerable pressure for me to be as good in sports, music and athletics as my siblings, who were all very talented. My parents were only 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants, so they were hard working, but poor. College savings was not available to me. That’s the biggest reason I joined the military at 18 to earn the GI Bill.
I think there are also challenges embedded in being a minority, especially in a nearly all Caucasian state like Iowa. Many of my peers growing up, and some adults, displayed over discrimination and used racial slurs. Combatting their ignorance and developing thick skin prepared me for the greater challenge of being a woman in the military. My first duty assignment in 1995 was with a combat unit and had only recently opened its ranks to women in the few jobs labeled as “non-combat.” The women made up only about 3% of the unit and we had to overcome stereotypes and unfair treatment. Outside of my deployment to Iraq in 2003-04, that first year in the military was the most physically and mentally challenging experience of my life.
K is for Key. What keys to success can you leave for upcoming entrepreneurs and leaders?
Don’t discount anyone. Many of the connections you make later in your career will originate from some of your first work relationships and friends, Movers and shakers from disparate industries often come together as leaders to promote community prosperity. Everyone is connected; always be professional. Also, a lesson I learned early on from one of my mentors was that it was my responsibility, at each rung of the career ladder that I climb, to reach down and pull someone up. The best position to be in is in the middle using the help of another to climb up while being the help someone else needs to achieve their next goal. Depositing into the dream accounts of others is one of the most rewarding investments you’ll ever make.
Is there anything that we did not touch on that you would like to inspire others with?
Trust yourself. You’ll make mistakes, especially if you take risks, But risks are required to actualize opportunity and the risk is often proportionate to the loss or gain. While we always want to gather information and trusted advice, at the end of the day the decision is yours and your path is unique. You will not get to where you need to go following in anyone else’s precise footsteps. Learn to adapt and don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way. You must pause and be thankful for the joys and blessings in order to have the emotional fuel required to keep charging ahead.
Visit Miyoko Hikiji for more information.