Jacquelyn Dyer joined the Navy to pursue her dream of owning her own café and bakery.
“It’s my passion. It’s what I’ve always wanted since I was about 7 years old,” said Jacquelyn, who was doing culinary school homework on the patio of a Starbucks in Norfolk, Virginia. “The whole reason I joined the Navy, actually, was because I wanted to get schooling paid for, and not to have any student loan debt, because that’s terrible.”
When she got out of the military, she tried to start school two days later. The transition was tough.
“When I first came back from my deployment, I feel there was a lot more darkness in my life,” she said. “It's really hard to explain the feelings you have when you're coming out of the military, because the camaraderie is unmatchable. You learn a whole different language when you join. You go from being constantly surrounded, working a lot of hours, to nobody understanding what you’re talking about – what you went through.”
A six-month internship at Dog Tag Bakery helped turn that around. The non-profit in the D.C. area is geared toward helping military veterans, their spouses, and caregivers with entrepreneurial skills, but Jacquelyn said it also helped her confront some of her traumatic experiences, find her voice and tell her story.
“It was healing. That’s when the lightness really started coming back into my life,” she said. “I never would have told anybody that stuff, not even my family, you know? These were veterans who had seen similar things, if not worse, so it was people I could relate to. Now that I'm able to speak about some of the things that happened to me, and it doesn't hurt, it doesn't cause me to stress out as much as it used to and I'm at peace with myself more so than I ever was before.”
Working for the non-profit also made her realize she still wanted to realize her childhood dream, but with a twist.
“People today don't know how to cook, but it's kinda necessary to survive. I wanna open up a place that reaches out to families that are low income and allow their children to come to my kitchen and teach them how to cook, and then send them home with a meal for their family as well,” she said.
– Jennifer Warnick