DaVina Richardson: Veteran of the Month
DaVina grew up on the northern east coast with a strong military influence rooted in servicing others. Out of fourteen children, she was number eleven and grew up with three siblings. They routinely ate Sunday dinner at her
grandmother’s house as a youth. After which, DaVina would accompany her grandfather to deliver food to neighbors that were either sick or shut in. As she matured, she would sit amongst the adults actively listening to discussions about foreign policy, current events, or social dynamics. Richardson reflects on how significant the military and community service was to her family and her chosen profession. Richardson stated, “In my family if you weren’t in the military, you had a human service job. My grandfather was a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marines who later worked at the Pentagon as a civilian. My father joined the Army at a young age, and my cousin was in the Air Force. So, I thought, why not just round it out and [join] the Navy.”
Richardson received her high school diploma with one of the top ten highest GPAs of her graduating class. After high school, she left home to attend one of the most prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the country, Hampton University. Simultaneously, taking a full course load and working full time, she had to deal with new levels of responsibility and situations outside of her parents’ protection. Once such issue was her commute between school and her off campus housing. She explained, “I had a scary moment and almost took a misstep. My father didn’t like what was going on, and brought me back home at the end of the semester.” Although she believed that education was essential, at the time she felt that she would be able to minimize her educational financial burden, follow family tradition and be of greater service in the military. With that in mind, she visited the nearest Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Three months upon her return home from her freshman year, she left for basic training with the United States Navy. The newly enlisted Richardson found herself heading to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center located north of Chicago, IL. Richardson laughed, recalling, “It was my very first time going to Chicago, and it was cold as the dickens! We referred to it as “Great Mistakes.” Richardson shared the military wasn’t originally on her career path but explained, “It was a great way to pay for college” because she prefers to live debt-free. She continued, “I actually have five degrees and am currently working towards a sixth with no [college] debt to date.” Richardson explained that boot camp was a different experience for her. She learned quickly to save packages of crackers from chow hall in her socks because they barely had time to eat before they were on to the next drill or training activity.
Upon completing basic training, the Navy stationed her at Naval Air Station Keflavik, located on the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland. She spent the next 18 months there, stating, “I loved it there. We would go visit the caves, and I met some of my very best friends in that country, and we’re still close today.” Initially, she was designated a Radioman. Her position monitored all communications between the ships and the naval station. She also rewrote the communications security exam to ensure compliance, and improve the knowledge of Command Management System (CMS) users according to command protocols.
Eventually, Richardson was sent to California for a few months for Advanced Technical Training or “C” school. Her position transformed from Radioman to Information Systems Technician Second Class. Once training in California was complete, she spent the next three years at Naval Station Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. While there, her role was similar to her duties in Iceland, with the exception of more LAN administration, which focused on hardware and software installs, and troubleshooting technical problems. Richardson said excitedly, “I was actually there when they filmed the movie Pearl Harbor, and I did my best to try to meet Ben Affleck, but it didn’t work.” She went on to say how her barracks were in a flight scene of the movie.
The 9/11 attacks occurred during this tour. At that time, she was close to discharge and had completed the preliminary steps towards joining the FBI. However, the country was facing this threat, and military discharges were put on hold. As a result, Richardson had to withdraw her packet from the FBI to remain enlisted until the hold was lifted.
While stationed in Hawaii, Richardson returned to her spiritual roots, and engaged in many church activities and volunteer work. She would spend her off-duty time feeding the homeless on the streets of Hawaii, which later led to volunteering at a children’s home. Richardson described how she learned what the locals called “throwaway kids.” She explained, “If you were the descendant of military [personnel] and a local, they did not take kindly to you, and a lot of those children were abandoned and ended up in the children’s home or on the streets. That is where my social work gene was [piqued]. I really enjoyed working with the kids, and that’s when I decided I would go to school for social work when I [got] out.” After six years of active duty, Richardson started her coursework to become a social worker citing her grandmother as a pivotal role in her journey. As a person who consistently chooses to serve others, Richardson said, “If I can do it, why not? If you can give insight to someone and help someone else, then why not? A candle loses nothing by sharing its flame. And it’s a good thing to see other people benefit.”
Over the years, she has earned five college degrees, including a bachelor’s and master’s in Social Work, and is now preparing to go to law school. She is a newlywed, volunteers as a state representative for youth in foster care, and works a full-time and a part-time job. Additionally, she homeschooled her son during the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked what she liked to do in her spare time now, she quickly declared, “Sleep! That is my favorite pastime” because she enjoys and thrives on accomplishing goals.
Richardson primarily works for a Federally Qualified Health Center as their Case Management Care Coordinator during the day. They have a partnership with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), where she has the opportunity to assist Veterans in addressing their primary care needs to include medical, dental, mental health or substance abuse treatment. She provides support with navigating the benefits process, or securing their personnel records. In addition, she has customized her work products to aid Veterans in staying abreast of Veteran Administration initiatives and current legislation aimed to address veteran issues. Richardson has referred Veterans for Pension with Aid and Attendance and the current grab bar program through the Close The Gap organization which a non-profit of Caring Senior Service. This nonprofit organization installs two safety grab bars for eligible seniors nominated through a qualified partner like Veterans Care Coordination™ (VCC).
Diane Gambill, Account Manager with VCC, talks about what an incredible resource Richardson is for the Veterans in her community. Gambill stated, “She works with the community and the local VA [stakeholders] going above and beyond for her patients by helping them apply for disability compensation or helping them get their DD214. Because she has that military background, is a social worker, and has the drive to help people, it makes her very unique.” Richardson has a mutual appreciation for Gambill, noting, “I [really] appreciate the collaboration with Diane. She is always there for me and always follows through. We are all trying to help others, and working with Diane, and VCC, makes getting things done [much] easier.”
When asked what her most significant takeaway is from her time in the Navy, she quickly asserted, “If you’re on time, you are late.” Richardson was raised in a charitable family with solid values and discipline, stating, “there were expectations of how we conducted ourselves and presented ourselves to the world.” She continued, “I think it was the cornerstone of the way my family functions, and the military fine-tuned it.” Richardson added, “The Navy has served me well, and I am not afraid [of new opportunities]. It really brought me out of my shell. I’ve met a few famous people, learned to sneak on stage during concerts, jumped out of a plane, and [have flown] a plane. So, thank you, Uncle Sam.” It was, and has been, a memorable adventure.
Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize DaVina Richardson for her service to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes. Thank you for your service, DaVina Richardson.