Q13 FOX Season of Giving

Veteran who struggled with transition to civilian life now spends her time helping others do the same

TACOMA, Wash. -- Redefining Future You is the brainchild of a local veteran who went through her own internal battle while transitioning into civilian life after 25 years of service.

While there are countless organizations in Washington state to help veterans get jobs, Redefining FY acknowledges that before veterans can even get to the space of reaching out for help, there’s emotional work to do first.

“In the military we have so much direction. We’re given a focal point. We’re told where to go and what to do. This is new. I don’t have anybody telling me where to go and what to do,” Redefining You Foundation creator Shellie Willis explained.

Five years ago, Willis retired as a master sergeant in the Army at JBLM. Her entire adult life was dedicated to serving her country. Then one day in 2013, it was all over.

“Who are we as women, now that we are not a soldier, sailor, airman or a Marine? Who are these women now that we don’t have to wake up every morning and dress like everyone else and look and act like everyone else?” Willis explained. “I did everything that people said I needed to do to prepare for a career, but we don’t get prepared for the personal challenges that are going to come as women.”

Willis' transition into civilian life wasn’t an easy one, and she knew others had to be feeling the same.

“The challenges of even figuring out what to wear. That has had people go into an emotional spiral not knowing what type of shoes to wear. These are things that you would think are very simple, but they are not very simple things,” Willis added.

Willis forged the waters of transition alone, but in the years since she’s dedicated her life to making sure that other women in her community wouldn’t have to, creating the non-profit that provides two-day seminars to guide women veterans through transitioning.

“Our goal is to break you down, to get you to address those issues, and the next day it’s really about building you up and getting you to create a foundational vision for yourself,” Williams explained. “We are gap fillers for what you don’t know you need. We want to pour into you what you don’t realize you need.”

Redefining FY brings in experts and life coaches to address emotional trauma, combining veteran testimony with a resource fair to guide women like Evelyn Tuiaana, a retired mother of six who attended the first ever Redefined FY event and now volunteers her time.

“I’ve met amazing women that I’m still in contact with and that’s how I’m still with Shellie. I’ve been on the bus since 2016 and I’m going to ride it to the wheels fall off,” Tuianna said through swelling tears.

Redefining Future You has become a second family for more than 250 women veterans throughout Western Washington. There next 2-day boot camp and resource fair is happening next May. You can find more information here