Baking It On My Own: How Cake Helped Me Transition As a Military Spouse

Baking It On My Own: How Cake Helped Me Transition As a Military Spouse

By Alice Duehring

Cake brought me to Dog Tag Bakery. I started cake decorating six years ago, all thanks to my six year old son. He came to me, asking for my help to design an entry for the cake auction at his very first Cub Scout “Blue and Gold” ceremony. Up to that point, I’d never given much thought to cake decorating; but as a generally crafty person, I thought it could be fun. My son gave me a crayon drawing resembling a scene out of the Jurassic period––complete with dinosaurs, a volcano spewing molten lava, and a river running through the middle with trees and rocks scattered about. It was a very specific drawing, and I did not want to disappoint him while bringing his cake dreams to life.

I made the cake from a box mix. I went online to find out how to make marshmallow fondant for the decorations––which was a total disaster the first few times I mixed it together. With multiple starts and restarts, somehow I eventually made it work. My son and I set out to recreate his drawing on the cake. We used stick pretzels for tree trunks, green Airhead strips for leaves, and rice crispy treat balls covered with fondant for the volcano. I bought $30 dollars worth of candy––including an assortment of different colored tubes of icing (blue to make the river, red for the molten lava coming down the volcano, and green to add accents around the trees). When complete, it was lumpy in different spots; Fondant tore along its sides and edges. It wasn’t the prettiest cake. But we were finally done, and it had all the requirements my son wanted; He thought it was the best cake he’d ever seen. More importantly, we had fun collaborating and designing the cake together. He was happy it sold for $25 dollars at the auction. However, he was disappointed he didn’t win the auction for his own cake. 

I have been a stay-at-home military spouse for the past 14 years. I am now finally at a place in my life where I want to rejoin the workforce doing something I enjoy. Since that first lumpy cake that brought my son’s drawing to life, I’ve baked and decorated dozens of cakes. Impressed with my work, friends and family tell me I should do cake decorating for a living. But how do I––a military spouse and self-taught baker, who holds an art history degree and moves every two to three years––successfully do that? That’s what I’m finding out as a Dog Tag Fellow. Because let’s face it; Even though all I want to do is bake and create, a business is more than just baking––and my art history degree didn’t prepare me for the logistics of running my own bakery. While being a part of Dog Tag’s fellowship program, I’m learning exactly what it takes to start and manage a small business. It’s A LOT!

Alice is a Navy Spouse who will graduate from the Dog Tag Fellowship program in June 2018. To learn more about Alice and other Winter 2018 Dog Tag Fellows, click here!

Finding the Confidence to Move Forward

Finding the Confidence to Move Forward

By Mindy Boulanger

My name is Mindy Boulanger. I’m originally from Saskatchewan, Canada and come from a family of entrepreneurs.  After living in the United States for the past three years, my life has been based around appointments, adapting to a new living environment and lifestyle, and learning to be a mom while caring for my legally blind spouse.  

I first learned about the Dog Tag Inc. Fellowship when I was living in the Operation Homefront Villages (OHFV).  The OHFV is a place that provides transitioning veterans and their families with a free place to reside while they await their retirement pay, along with their final rating from the VA. OHFV hosts frequent events and group speakers for village residents, and it was through one of these events that I was told about an entrepreneurship program provided for caregivers and spouses by Dog Tag Inc.  Being excited about the opportunity to further my education and gain experience I could use to pursue a career outside the home, I applied to Dog Tag’s program for the first time in 2015.  However, after having my first interview and thinking more about committing myself to the program, I came to realize that my family needed me and I was not in a position where I could commit to the fellowship.

During the phone interview portion of the process, I was surprised how understanding, encouraging, and empathetic my interviewer was to my family situation.  He encouraged me to see the opportunity of this program while advising me that the opportunity will still be around, and when I am ready they would be happy to have me.  Knowing that this opportunity was always available gave me the courage to re-apply for the program again in 2018.

The Dog Tag Inc. Fellowship Program has provided me with an opportunity to learn in a small, comfortable, supportive, understanding, and hands-on environment.  The biggest struggles for me while taking this course are finding the confidence to be around people, speak up, open myself up to a new experiences, and possibly join the workforce.  Through journaling, practicing mindfulness, interpersonal discussion, compassion, excitement for my growth, and the educational courses provided by Dog Tag, I have learned a lot about myself.  I am slowly finding the confidence to move forward with my entrepreneurial idea of one day owning and operating my own bed and breakfast.

Where Do I Begin?


By Jacquelyn Dyer

Where do I begin? The ever-daunting question that hangs over the head of veterans, shortly after making the choice to leave the military: I know what I want, I know where I want to be five years from now, but what is my first step? Learning to walk again on my own after being told how to for the past four years has been an adjustment. I have been out of the service for a little over a year now; I took two days off before starting culinary school. I knew at that time my end goal would be to own a café/bakery, because I love coffee and pastries. I figured school would be my first step because I needed to learn more about how to create the pastries I wanted to sell. The next question: how am I going to be able to afford opening my own place?!

I don’t have huge savings, my credit is decent…who is going to want to help fund my dreams? That’s when I met a stranger at a coffee shop. He informed me of a place called Dog Tag Bakery, located in DC. He said they had a program for veterans who wanted to learn more about business and entrepreneurship.

At first, I was skeptical––at this point I had heard so many stories about illusive veteran programs and how there is so much help out there for veterans wanting to open their own business. I’ve been told “all we have to do is search for the help”…I’ve done research, and I am still doing research trying to find these “amazing” programs. Most of the programs I’ve found have turned out to be marketing techniques, where a business will showcase a veteran to make themselves look better.

Reluctantly, I decided to research Dog Tag Bakery. What I found at Dog Tag Inc. was nothing short of phenomenal. They do not put us in a fish bowl for everyone to awe at; they understand that we have a different outlook because of our military backgrounds, and most importantly they don’t coddle or showcase us. They continuously provide me with a conducive learning environment that is accepting and understanding, but does not make me feel like I am just a veteran. The program is providing me with a first-hand experience on what it takes to run a business, while also giving me the time and space to discover exactly what I want to do with my life post-military. The program is five months long, which sounds like a long time––but it is flying by. I am just beginning my second month here, and the amount of information I’ve already learned in this first month has been tremendous in helping me realize what I need to do to reach my goals. I hope that other veterans read this and look into the program because the possibilities here are endless.

What Am I To Do Now? When Life Sucks - RISE!


By Sedrick Banks

Pain, struggle, heartache, and loss are not easy. They suck for all of us. I believe we all have the ability and strength to hunker down and then RISE beyond all of these.

I believe this is possible because I’ve gone through some of the most devastating experiences life could muster up – and I’m here. And I’m not just here in a purely functional way because I somehow managed to white-knuckle my way through this misery – I’m actually happy and look forward to waking up each day because it gives me another chance to help others who might be stuck in pain. So if you think life’s been so rough with you that there’s no way you could possibly get through it, let alone find happiness, I’d like to start by sharing the truth of what I know and have experienced directly...

I was orphaned at 14 years of age, when my mother died unexpectedly; my father died when I was six. I’d like to say that having to raise myself as a teen with no support was the worst thing that I’ve experienced…but it’s not. Before he died, my father threatened to take away my six-year-old life by placing me on my knees and putting a double-barreled shotgun in my mouth. Consequently, I feared the mere sight of him. So did everyone else – I remember my mother hiding in the closet. I grew up in a drug- and alcohol-infested environment. Three of my sisters died from drugs. I recall my sister diving off the rooftop. I remember people in my family running down the street naked because they were so drugged up they had no idea what they were doing. I saw good friends go to jail and good friends go to the grave. I watched people ruin their lives right in front of my eyes. In school, my teachers teased me for being poor, so I sat timidly in class, too afraid even to ask to use the restroom; which on one occasion meant I peed through the white pants I was wearing right there in the classroom. The fear of being teased by other kids kept me silent.

I can tell you that I never heard the words "I love you" as a child. I do not remember receiving a hug. I got locked in a cellar, in a dark basement, naked and without food or water.

I fought against the rats while eating food out of the garbage. I grew up often moving because we could not afford to pay the rent. That made eviction the best option.

We lived in abandoned homes in Pittsburgh, PA with no running water, plumbing, electricity, or heat. They did have broken windows -- including during the middle of winter.

I almost got put out of the military within my first two years because I had a deviant leader who took all my credit cards and maxed them out and put me in debt.

I went through Army Ranger Training twice; back-to-back. I broke off two engagements because the women cheated on me. I misled other women, and let down plenty of people.

I saw my friend's brains spattered on the wall just minutes after he committed suicide (we had plans to go out for the evening). We were both Drill Sergeants and we were, in fact, actually responsible for teaching suicide prevention.

The point is this: My story is extreme, yes…but we ALL suffer through painful experiences. We all feel worthless at times because real life is always happening and it will surprise us all.

The question is: What are we going to do with our suffering and how are we going to allow it to develop joy within us?

Our downfalls can either be our most crushing disadvantage or our most significant advantage…and YOU get to decide this!

Life can knock us down, stopping us with a knockout blow…or it can knock us flat on our backs, just rattle us a bit, and then we can muster the strength to RISE.

I truly believe that when we see the life lessons as advantages rather than isolated incidents of our struggles, they no longer have the power to hold us down. This perspective gives us the strength to overcome, and slowly and eagerly RISE.

It sucks finding ourselves flat on our face. I know. I've been there more than once. To find yourself lying on the canvas, mentally beaten and feeling physically done. Having been hit so hard, it seems impossible to get up. I don't claim to understand your situation. I don't know your life. But I did live through and continue to face my own painful experiences.

A genuine value of life shows up when we are in the arena, in the ring of life, uncomfortably cornered against the ropes, knocked down on the canvas, feeling beaten, thinking we are mentally, emotionally, and physically defeated.

Then we experience an awakening that encourages us to RISE back up and say “This is not my end, it’s just a pause – Time to RISE and Fight Back!

We all have a story of pain, suffering, lack of worth, and regrets. Sometimes we feel we’re losing in the ring, doesn’t matter if we’re rich or poor, old or young, male or female. Our story can become a driving force. It is powerful enough to encourage us to get up and show how we can overcome by what we have already overcame. And now we are able to help someone else by telling our story.

We are all in this overall story together; so we can all overcome the pain together – each of us bringing a unique perspective that heals.

When we decide to get up and RISE for another – if not for ourselves in the moment – our best life will show up and reveal its powerful value.

Live as one of the few whose deciding to get up. We will all at one time contemplate the worth of our life when we find ourselves lying flat on our backs in the boxing ring of life. The floor of this ring is not where we are supposed to live; it’s just a place to recognize our strength and get back on our feet.

Some of us will lie on the canvas floor way too long, believe it is where we belong, and then make ourselves the victim in our championship fight. We tend to remain too long on the canvas of defeat until our mind, and our whole body believes this is who we are and where we were called to exist.

I continue to RISE and need you to RISE with me...for when we RISE we become the hope for another to RISE.

Life is going to have its moments of testing you; a test of your passion, your drive, your ability to push, your motives, your values, your truths, and your will to live (and to live on purpose).

How you endure through your knockdowns will be the driving force and energy to support you in returning to your feet during the fight to live life in your championship rounds (the chapters remaining in your life starting right now).

When we make our life matter, the results of our story changes, our impact is made, and our story is written to be passed on in a new form to our kids; defining the story of a new generation.

You are the beginning of authoring a new story of overcoming, getting up, believing in yourself, finding value in your existence, and adding value and worth to the book you are writing.

Life will laugh at you; people will laugh at you. You will lose much confidence in your dream of winning and defending this life you are called to live. Then you will stop and ponder…your True Self will come calling from deep within you. Talk with your True Self, affirming you how strong you truly are even while you are lying on your back on the canvas.

Life will observe and measure whether you really desire to live it. It will see if you are passionate about developing and growing. And just when you think you have it mastered, it will present you with a new challenge – a new challenger – placing you in a different fight to overcome. You will find yourself on the canvas more than once to be preparing, and not beaten.

For through experience and living in the “Present” you will learn to RISE.

You will quietly speak. And then you’ll know…

Now it is time; the count has begun. No more pondering. It is time for me to get up... it is time for me to RISE.

It is time to hear these words in my head and throughout my entire body.

It is time to listen to the voice within me – My True Self.

Screaming or softly whispering to me, “Get Up...RISE, RISE, RISE!”

You cannot truly and fully live, lying knocked out on the canvas of life - for no real life is lived lying on one's back. That is not life. It is death before its time.

Many men have stepped into the ring of life and gotten knocked down and knocked out but the strong, the brave warrior, and the one fighting for a true cause understood that sometimes it is part of the journey, the process and have gotten back up to win the fight of life.

The difference between living and surviving is the getting up, pushing forward and punching back with confidence, grit, and faith. Understanding life, as chaotic as it seems, is worth living fully.

The most powerful way to get your back off the canvas: RISE -- Live as the warrior in your life, living Genuinely Present and truly you...from the inside out.

RISE and RISE Boldly: Worry Not In Wait – Take Action

Grow Through the Process of Progress of the Fight

Worry not about the future - Live & Be Present.

Worry not about holding your Present prisoner because of errors in your past - No one is guilty today - It Is the Past & It has Gone.

Worry not about hate - Seek to Love without Condition.

Worry not about age - Embrace the Youth You Have.

Worry not about 'can't do' - Start Doing What You Can Do.

Worry not about hesitating - Truly Commit To Finish.

Worry not about failure - Try Now... Try Again - Never Done the First Time.

Worry not about “have nots”- Visualize and See What You Have.

Worry not about wait - Take a Chance Now, While Given the Present.

Please stop worrying about death - Seek to Live!

We are all given fantastic dreams, ideas, stories, inventions, books, music, discoveries, passions, and amazing purposes to live out...You have to RISE...Your Living Matters!

We can't produce a single one of these things surviving life with our back laid flat out on the canvas... These things only come to life when we slowly begin to let go of expectations, ego, fears, insecurities, future, and the past…and RISE.

The impact of the life we are called to live out is stronger than that fist that knocked us to the canvas. The life we are called to live is stronger than a bad marriage, a bad relationship, a rough upbringing, a painful memory, a loss of self-worth, which has put us all on the canvas of life one time or another.

It is now we RISE again and learn to punch back to “Fight a Good Fight” and Run Our Race to Victory.

Rise and Live Genuinely – Live The Genuine Life.

The Difference A Year Makes

The Difference A Year Makes

By Megan Murray

This time last July I was a new Fellow in Cohort Four of the Dog Tag Fellowship Program. I entered the program as an active duty Army spouse with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a successful teaching and event planning career in performing arts. My husband and I had moved five times in five short years––and we were carrying the weight of constant change and transition. Last year we made the tough decision to separate from active duty and put down roots in this new city we’d come to love. We were both ready for a career change and wanted to pursue new passions. But as everyone who’s experienced the veteran transition knows, these pursuits are much easier said than done.

Making a career change for myself in addition to our transition from active duty was daunting and a bit overwhelming. After months of trying on my own to make a career jump outside of the performing arts, my efforts were going nowhere. I was starting to question my path and knew I needed guidance. Last spring, I learned about the Dog Tag Fellowship Program through a Hiring our Heroes networking event. For me, the opportunity to study with Georgetown University and gain hands-on experience in new fields was too good to pass by. So, I took a chance on myself- applied to the program, and was accepted.

As those familiar with the program may know, it is comprised of three main segments: business rotations, learning labs, and classes through Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. In the business rotations Fellows learn hands-on from Dog Tag staff members and take on projects that complement and enrich the varying scopes of work within the organization. Through the learning labs Fellows hear from dozens of different entrepreneurs, career coaches, and other veterans and veteran advocates. We were exposed to a large range of topics and the opportunity to network and learn from others and their successes was invaluable. The curated classes through Georgetown University were truly top level. It was energizing to be challenged in the classroom again and to learn more from leading professors in their fields. The program also has holistic support components, volunteer opportunities, and self-reflection through its “finding your voice” class. Fellows can fully immerse themselves alongside fellow spouses, caregivers, and veterans. My experiences through the five and half months of the program were inspiring and gave me the confidence I needed to persist on my path forward. I also can’t go without mentioning the friendships that I forged with my “fellow Fellows” along the way. We still meet up from time to time- and our humorous group messages and continuing support for one another is authentic and appreciated, especially now that we no longer see one another every day.

Prior to coming to Dog Tag, I questioned: “could I do this?” and “where do I fit?” Thanks to this program I know now that I have the tools, resources, and network to achieve my dreams. This fellowship and my experiences helped me lay out a better-defined path to success for myself and prepared me for the day when opportunity came knocking.

It is hard to wrap my mind around how much has transpired and changed in a year. Thanks to the connections I made during my fellowship, I am proud to say that I landed a fantastic job. I am the new Director of Membership and Communications for OSEHRA- a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating innovation in open source healthcare IT. I direct our event planning, membership development, marketing, and communications. I have already advanced within the organization and I feel truly blessed to go to work every day to a job I love. Our military journey has evolved as well, and continuing to transition and shift with his new status as a Veteran. We are still exploring and defining where we fit in the “civilian world” and I know there will be many more twists and turns along the way, but we’re ready for the new adventure that awaits.

I am grateful that Dog Tag helped me relaunch my career in a whole new direction. (If you had told me that I would be working in the healthcare IT industry back then I wouldn’t have believed you!) To anyone considering the Fellowship Program I encourage you to reach out to an Alumni or Staff member for more information. Completing this program for myself was one of the best decisions I’ve made. To other spouses or veterans currently in transition, I offer the following parting advice:

1. Be patient with yourself. It’s normal to feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster during such an intense time of transition. The old rollercoaster comparison may be a little cliché, but it’s very true. You will have confident days, days where you will question yourself and your path, and days when you wonder if you are even in control of your own path. You will have highs and lows, and sometimes it will be difficult to perceive the distance you’ve traveled. Through it all, remember what you’ve already accomplished and overcome throughout your military career/experience. Lean on it, and “lean in,” to continue overcoming new obstacles and challenges.

2. No path will be perfect. There is no set or best way to transition out of active duty. No matter which professional path you choose to pursue there will be concessions, and that’s okay. Define what is most important to you and pick the concessions you can live with. Stand firm in knowing what is best for you.

3. Don’t forget to nurture what feeds your soul. Dance, cooking, yoga, art, golf, photography – whatever you do, do something that brings you joy and good energy. In a time of big changes it is helpful to have something that grounds you and brings you to your best self.

4. The best memories of your Military career don’t fade when your time in uniform does. I am so thankful for the adventures we experienced and the lifelong friends we gained during our time in the Army. Looking back, I am grateful we made the most of each duty station and that we can carry the best parts and lessons from our active duty life forward. I will always hold these memories in my heart.

Megan Murray is the spouse of an Army Veteran, and the Granddaughter of Marine Corps and Navy Veterans. She loves ballet and yoga, working with children, event planning, and college football. She and her husband Ben reside in Alexandria, VA with their cat and dog. Connect with Megan here on LinkedIn.

What I've Learned and What I Look Forward To

What I've Learned and What I Look Forward To

By Rachael Harris

My name is Rachael Harris and I am a US Navy veteran. I was a culinary specialist, left the Navy in 2009 and have been cooking in the DC civilian world for 8 years.

Since starting my journey at Dog Tag, my eyes have been opened to so many new experiences. I am learning personal and professional skills to apply to my daily life.

My favorite part of the program is the holistic segment, where we are taught mindfulness and meditation and how to be present; being present is one of the most important things that they are teaching us. I anticipate being able to put the skills that I have learned to use while either operating my own business, or working for someone else. The mindfulness and holistic segment will also be helpful in aiding me to focus on my own wellness. The Dog Tag program is truly life changing and it is awe inspiring to see how many lives have been touched by this program. There are many studies that touch on the subject of mindfulness and how it helps veterans with service-connected disabilities.

The VA also runs programs geared towards reintegration via mindfulness.

I am looking forward to being a homeowner, using the skills that I learned while at Dog Tag, and exploring entrepreneurship. I don’t think that I would have even known where to begin or how to handle my journey as a new home owner if I hadn’t found this program. I am also excited to continue my wellness journey and see how I blossom as I continue to work things out and stay mindful. There is truly no other program like Dog Tag that pushes its fellows to be the best that they can, to grow, and to blossom into productive citizens. I am grateful for Dog Tag as it has not only touched my life in an exponential way, but also has helped so many others.

Upon graduation, Rachael Harris started her own Veteran-owned small business, Vic’s Homegrown, a new and unique food pop-up. Being a locally owned business, Vic’s Homegrown strives to use as many local and sustainable ingredients as possible. Many of their recipes have been passed down through generations and remain unchanged in order to bring you the most stellar food experience around (like the biscuits pictured above).

Follow Rachael’s company Instagram and Twitter @vicseats to keep up with her pop-ups around the DMV!

Kick Down Doors and Take Names

Kick Down Doors and Take Names

By Nnana Obioha

I am an Army combat veteran from Fairfax and Alexandria, Virginia. I found out about Dog Tag Inc. from Wounded Warrior Project.

My time at Dog Tag Inc. has been inspirational.

I have been motivated by my fellow peers and individuals that I have encountered while at the program to go to law school. I am currently pursuing my Masters in Information Technology at Marymount University. After graduation in August, I plan on going to law school to focus on Intellectual Property Law.

I plan on bridging my Masters in Information Technology with a JD in Law to kick down doors and take names in Intellectual Property Law. I want to bridge both areas of study and pursue a career in Information Law.

I am currently preparing for the LSAT. I will be taking the exam in June, if all goes well I will attain a good score to attend some of the law schools I have selected out in the DMV area. Georgetown, American, and Howard are some of the schools I have picked out in the area.

I have grown exponentially through the Dog Tag Inc. program.

I suggest all veterans and veteran affiliated members should apply for the Dog Tag Inc. fellowship program. I am motivated to be part of the Dog Tag program; from presentations from alumni to Deloitte’s learning lab on business chemistry.

The holistic practice of yoga and mindfulness has been transformational. Classes such as entrepreneurship with Georgetown lectures have been eye-opening. I have been very impressed with all that has been presented and brought to the program so far. I am extremely impressed with the alumni that have come to speak with us and shared their past experiences with going through the program.

I am eager to see what the next couple months have to offer. I am thrilled to witness my growth as a person and a professional through the program. I hope to leave the program with strong connections, a better IT job, equipped with tools and resources to work towards future goals and to be a law student. 

Nnana Obioha currently resides in Arlington, VA. Following graduation, Nnana began working full time as an IT Specialist with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and is currently applying to law schools. Connect with Nnana via LinkedIn.

An Amazing Adventure: From Chocolate Chip Cookies To Georgetown University

An Amazing Adventure: From Chocolate Chip Cookies to Georgetown University

By Michael Gephart

The Dog Tag Fellowship program is an amazing adventure. The pillars of the program are interwoven and support multiple learning mechanisms. The academic pillar through Georgetown University provides the technical and theoretical learning in the major disciplines of business. The major areas discussed are Management, Finance, Accounting, Communications, Business Policy, Entrepreneur and Marketing. I enjoyed the classes on entrepreneurism and finance.

The rotation pillar supports the fellow by providing practical experience from working with the different directors and managers in Dog Tag Bakery. The fellows work on challenges faced by the directors and managers they encounter as they perform their various tasks. They are able to apply the theory learned in the morning with the practicality of the rotations, thus learning many different ways small business overcome those challenges.

The directors gain creative and fresh perspectives on their challenges as the fellows seek solutions paths to improve Dog Tag Bakery operations. At the end of each rotation each small team presents their recommendations to the Directors and peers. Some of the challenges approached by this cohort had many levels, allowing multiple teams to work through all aspects of the solution.

The real treat of the Dog Tag Fellowship is the learning lab pillar. This is the most inspiring and influential part of the program.  The guest speakers who grace the fellows are professionals who come and share their story. Through many different aspects of business success, growth, and taking risks. The breadth and depth of speakers who come to share their story is amazing. Some of the speakers share knowledge about critical skills to make us more effective during our interactions in the business world. This network of presenters offers a plethora of network contacts who want to assist us in moving forward after our service and finding success on the next chapter of a Fellow’s life.

My adventure in the Dog Tag program started with two chocolate chip cookies and a discussion with Meghan during a hiring fair in DC. I had recently transitioned from the US Army and was in a bit of a haze trying to figure out what I wanted to do and where I could do it. I am a military spouse and veteran of fourteen years. Through that conversation, I decided to apply, Meghan’s description of the program intrigued me. The program sounded rewarding and rigorous compared to what I had experienced through the Army’s transition program. I had very little understanding of the trail I would venture down.

There were many who came to talk with us about a myriad of topics. The topics ranged from stories of perseverance, survival, finding success, how to Network, and other professional soft skills. The speaker that inspired me is Wendy Moomaw. The way she broke down her person. She put it in the context of how it woven into her work, motivation and dedication to achieve success. Her drive is evident in how she describes the many facets of her professional journey and her future goals. Her humble approach and comfortable discussion was very inspiring. The work she does coaching and mentoring other professionals to improve their leadership skills and professional persona.

The Dog Tag fellowship program is an amazing adventure. The pillars of the program are interwoven and support multiple learning mechanisms. How each fellow chooses to unwrap the gift of a learning lab is their own to choose, each fits what they learned into their life journey.

Michael Gephart is an Army veteran and Army spouse, currently residing in Vienna, VA with his wife and 3 boys. Connect with Michael via LinkedIn.

The Perfect 10: Vince Loran's Graduation Remarks

Members of Cohort Five nominated Vince Loran to serve as their class’s graduation speaker on June 1, 2017. An Air Force veteran, Vince lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife Ana. Connect with Vince via LinkedIn. Please find his remarks from the ceremony below. Join us in congratulating all of the Dog Tag graduates!

Thank you! Dog Tag Inc. Staff, Board Members, Alumni, Georgetown University Professors and administration, learning lab partners, distinguished guest, family and friends; Welcome and Thank you.  

I am truly honored to be speaking on behalf of the fellows of Cohort 5.  

To the Fellows of Cohort 5, we did it!!! Here’s a celebratory round of applause! I call us the Perfect 10! Cohort 6 have big shoes to fill.  Congrats to each and every one of you on this prestigious accomplishment. We embarked into this program on January 10th, 2017, that’s why we’re the winter class, as individuals and became a Team, a family, part of a wonderful community. Throughout our 5 month journey we laughed, we cried, we fought, we bonded, and embraced each other. A truly remarkable experience not only giving us the opportunity to be better suited for employment, entrepreneurship or to seek higher education. It gave us something far greater that: It gave us an opportunity to Accept and Believe who we are the way we are.  We searched from within we meditated, reflected… boy did we reflect! “What are you doing”, experience finding your voice and Bo “AKA” Charles, said it best last night and I quote, “My future is much brighter, my dreams are back!  My dreams shifted and changed a little now I dream of having 6 kids a large family.” I believe Bo is creating a children’s version of a Dog Tag Inc. Fellowship program. Watch out! We all shared the same sentiment of the importance of valuing Family- our immediate family, the Dog Tag Family and the military family.  Bo also mentioned in his speech that he plans on taking everything he learned and go into the community of San Antonio, Texas and make a difference. This is what this program does (Pause) It transforms and empowers, it is truly a Rite of Passage.

Here we are on June 1st, and the first of each month I post a quote and challenge on Facebook which I call the monthly Q&C’s and today being that it is June 1st I added the following Quote-Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua J. Marine. We all have overcame several challenges throughout our journey and I hope they were as meaningful to you as they were for me.  

Cohort 5- Let me share with you our class superlatives which are an exaggerated or hyperbolical expression of praise: Not terrible!

Most likely to show 5 videos of her cats in one hour- Rachael

Most likely to organize the classroom or your Life- Leslie

Most likely to Parachute through the Skylight and give a presentation on the Value Proposition Model- Mike

Most likely to turn a 5 min speech to a 30 min lecture- Victor

Most likely to get interviewed by 60 Minutes and every major news network- Cassaundra

Most likely to recite every VA Health Benefit and regulations- Aundrea

Most likely to be very active on social media with a huge following especially on Twitter or should I say Tweeter- Laura

Most likely to come to class in Jeans or gym attire or best Dressed- Nnana

And lastly,

Most likely to snap pictures any place anytime or bust out salsa dancing-Vince

To Racheal, to Victor, to Cassaundra, to Nnana, to Laura, to Mike, to Leslie and to Bo, I leave you with two words:

The first is one word Build:

Build yourself, examine and observe your mental and emotional state and processes. Introspectively build your inner strength and your inner self to allow yourselves to be a brighter beacon of light not only for yourself, but for others.

Secondly, build your professional relationships these are those connections that pays huge dividends for each of us personally and professionally. Go to those networking events and have a purpose. I’m proud to say Leslie is a perfect example of how she build herself and now is a professional networking ambassador, Great Job Leslie! Building these relationships because they will add value when you need to share an idea, a constructive feedback or get some, a shoulder to lean on or someone to vent to.

Lastly, Build your community involves lending a hand and more importantly, lending your Heart! Just look around the room. They invested in us, in the Dog Tag Fellowship program and in the Dog Tag cohort in some way, shape or form. They have taken the time to help us, groom us, support us, educate us, gives us praises and recalibrate us and of course, a swift kick once in awhile so we can be right on point. They did this all in the name of building this wonderful community because they care. They got our SIX- They got our back.  One person comes to mind when I mention building a community at Dog Tag. Fellows…Any guesses?  Kyle Burns. You embodied and personified building a community with your heart for us that is why I called you, Mama Bear. You looked out for each and every one of us each day and every hour, through the good and the hard times.  Nothing but love for you Mama Bear and we thank you for that! Build a community with your Heart!

The final word I leave you with Is PASSION, and I want to break this out. It’s a powerful or compelling emotion or feeling I want each of you to continue your journey with that.

Let me break this down for you-

The P of passion, stands for personally committed to achieving your purpose, your goals with persistency and always staying positive!

The A Stands for Appreciation- Appreciation of all walks of life, people with different abilities and different personalities. To appreciate each other starts with being an active listener. That’s why we have to WAIT!-acronym “Why Am I Talking?” We have two of these (points to ears) and one of these (points to mouth) so we should be listening more and talking less. Listen with empathy without judgements. It will truly be appreciated!

The S’s of Passion stand for Service before Self the second Air Force core Value of the year folks that I must add-putting others first.  The impact of serving others is like dropping a pebble in the water seeing the endless ripples it creates! We have seen that in Bo (AKA Charles) going down to San Antonio, TX after this beautiful experience and all of us will also reap those benefits, and you will see those creative ripples. Service before Self.

The I stands for Integrity- which we have learned and embodied from our time in the military, which are part of our core values and our warrior ethos. Integrity, doing the right thing, being honest, have strong moral principles.

The O stands for openness-being open to listen to others, open to admitting when you need help and open to accept the help. The letter O is in the form of a circle because it is a cycle that is constantly evolving and is a representation of the circle of your life!

The last letter in word Passion I want each and every one of you, all 9 of you, to continue to remember and repeat the letter N, because nobody, nothing will stand in your way! Thank you very much! ©

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

By Charles Carolus

Hi! My name is Charles "Bo" Carolus.  I served on Active Duty for 10 years as a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy. I deployed twice, my most recent deployment being in 2011 with the Marines in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Yup, the MARINES!

We conducted combat operations near the southern border of Afghanistan, right next to Pakistan.  Some of us suffered from injuries and unfortunately, not all of us returned from deployment alive.  I returned alive and with all my limbs, but not exactly whole.

The years following my return has been like one four-year-long medical appointment. 

While in Afghanistan, I suffered traumatic brain injuries and experienced very horrific events while deployed. In 2013, the doctors put me through very rigorous treatments and therapy plans.  I really felt like my medical record was labeled “broken.”  I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and just wanted to magically disappear every day. I knew that I was going to be separated from the Navy and had no clue what I would do or could do next.

Some of you may look at me and say “Wow! What a healthy and good-looking young man!”  Believe me, I say the same thing every day when I look myself in the mirror (Badum Psss!). Then... it’s time for me to take my seven medications.  

I was known for being an outstanding Hospital Corpsman or medic for those that are unfamiliar with Navy terminology. Not to brag, but saving lives and kicking butt was pretty much my middle name. I was the 2013 2nd Marine Division Sailor of the Year and inducted into the Military Times Hall of Valor.

Before becoming a Dog Tag Inc. Fellow, I was like a broken soul still searching for a reason to enjoy the day. I can't remember how long I was depressed in this way, but it was entirely too long.

Thankfully, I met Dog Tag, Inc.!  

I felt lucky to find this fellowship program before my medical retirement.  Even though I was stressed out about leaving the military, Dog Tag, Inc. has made my military transition much smoother.

This fellowship program has given me a sense of self-worth and inner peace again that I lost in Afghanistan. Today, I feel healthier and excited about my future again! Even if this program is only five months, it's five months of something meaningful and I have been transformed personally and professionally.

I've learned how to communicate my value by learning critical business administration lessons through classes provided by Georgetown University professors. I’ve learned how to write a resume and practice job interview techniques from true professionals such as of Deloitte, Leader Fit, and other excellent speakers.

The list can goes on and on, but what I've learned during the fellowship program will always stay with me! I know I still have so much to learn, but I am embracing the future now with a fresh pair of eyes!  I feel prepared for any challenge! 

In this exact moment, I realized that I am living in my new reality! My doctors have stamped this term my “new normal.” I just like to call it “Lost in Translation.”

The main quality that others have noticed in me is my increased confidence.  I feel peaceful and practice meditation every day, which is new for me!  All of these changes are completely unexpected.  I want to thank everyone present in my transformation process and for those who support Dog Tag, Inc.’s cause. This fellowship program has changed my life forever!

Charles "Bo" Carolus lives with his wife, Yolangel, in Silver Spring, Maryland with their dog Bella.  Bo enjoys playing guitar and boxing in his spare time.  Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Learning Labs & Golden Nuggets

Learning Labs & Golden Nuggets

by Cassaundra Martinez

I came into the Dog Tag Fellowship program as a military spouse with five years of service in the Army and masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology.  The program has three pillars: Georgetown classes, live business rotations, and the learning labs.  I couldn’t say one pillar is more important than the other.  However, for me, the learning labs seem to have a greater impact on my "now." While in the learning labs, we discover all sorts of topics, from how to fund your business to learning our unique business chemistry or how to start a franchise.

All of the professionals who come to speak during the learning labs drop on us one to two “golden nuggets.” These golden nuggets come in different forms, but they are significant and they cause a change in perspective, almost immediately.

I had one of those moments when Fred Wellman, CEO of ScoutComms, came and spoke to us about his business and his experience.  Fred tells this crazy story about how he got fired on the doorstep of Cracker Barrel one afternoon. And after he had exhausted all of his resources in a short amount of time, he realized that he needed to create a business for himself in order to continue to feed his family.

Fred’s professional success has been incredible since that day six years ago.  His passion was palpable and inspiring. And in my head, I’m thinking - what am I waiting for?!

That afternoon, I went home logged on, registered my business name, and purchased my first website. We were three months deep into the program - I knew it what my skills were, I knew my values, and I knew how to use them…

Now I'm learning to do what it takes to grow my business, establish good relationships and build out my network.  I've got the tools I needed to succeed, now it's just about how and when to use them.  See! “Golden Nuggets!”

You can connect with me on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Check out my new business page GwellaConsulting, which helps small businesses start up their human resources and human capital strategy.

Cassaundra Martinez is an Army veteran and Army spouse of eight years. She resides in Virginia with her husband and six children Ariana, Ella, Noemi, Calais, Elise and son Tobias. She enjoys inspiring others to discover their strengths and translating those to a meaningful career. She is an active advocate for military spouse empowerment and employment and was named 2017 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year.  She graduates from the Dog Tag Fellowship in June 2017.

Dog Tag Fellowship Changed My Life

Dog Tag Fellowship Changed My Life

by Leslie Caleb

The Winter 2017 DogTag Inc. (DTI) Fellowship Program at Dog Tag Bakery started on January 12. Full of excitement, I made my way toward Washington, D.C. on a winter morning walking toward an unexplored professional and educational journey.

The first few days began with group assessments and I soon realized this program could be transformative and an incredible experience. The program introduction revealed the unique milestones of the work-study program that each fellow would achieve during the five months with a cumulation in sight: graduation.

Almost four months into the program, I can safely say this program is an absolute life changer.  A set of holistic routines is integrated as part of the growth development plan - among other things, yoga, mindfulness, and journaling. Seasoned Georgetown professors introduce MBA comparable academic lessons twice a week in our classroom situated above the aromas of the bakery. Another essential part of the fellowship are Learning Labs, entrepreneurs’ testimonials and lectures from DTI partners speeches become conversational presentations. The third and last module of the curriculum is called Rotations.  In this segment, we translate the acquired skills into practice for example baking brownies, writing grant proposals, in finance translating numbers into meaningful data to make strategic decisions and creating a catering menu.  

DTI Fellowship is different than other programs because it creates and empowers those who have served and their families from diverse background to become a strong community and offers them the opportunity to reach fulfilling careers beyond the horizon of ordinary employment.  In this unique program, you identify your values and use those values to make successful decisions about your personal and professional life.  Dog Tag Fellowship changed my life.

You can connect with me via my Facebook or LinkedIn.  Check out more of my blog posts at Serendipity Life Stories.

Leslie Caleb is a five-year Army spouse who enjoys writing about her unorthodox life, restoring old furniture, and exploring new cultures.  She graduates from the DTI program June 2017.