Kathryn Warren currently works for Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). She is the Program Manager for Onward to Opportunity (O2O) in Southern California where she assists transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment post service. O2O Participants may choose to work towards one supported industry certification administered by globally recognized organizations. O2O combines industry-validated curricula, strong partnerships, and comprehensive career coaching and employment services support to align program participants with civilian job opportunities. Kathryn is a career Marine Corps Veteran and finds her passion in helping the military connected community find their next professional journey post service with focus on authentic relationship building.
It was a hot July afternoon in Southern California when my younger daughter asked me about serving as an Occupational Therapist in the Navy. I simply thought we were having another one of our thought provoking, stimulating career challenging conversations. I had no idea that this conversation would be the start of a career change for her and for me, the realization that my daughter would continue the legacy of serving in our Armed Forces.
I spent the majority of my adult life on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. For over 26 years I had the opportunity to impact our future Marine Corps as a Drill Instructor, deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and be involved in multiple strategic initiatives that changed our financial management community. I am modest when speaking of my service and humbled when thinking about the impact we as women have had on our military community. With my daughter’s announcement that she wanted to pursue active duty service I immediately thought of the challenges she would face as one of many women who choose to selflessly serve. At the same time however, “Work Mom” immediately sprang into action! I currently manage the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) Onward to Opportunity program in Southern California. The program gives transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses the opportunity to earn in demand certifications and gain insight in topics that will ensure their success during transition from military service. When my daughter began asking questions about how to be successful in her application submission, I quickly realized that everything we share with our Onward to Opportunity learners would be applicable to her. She updated her LinkedIn profile, refined her resume, and networked with other Occupational Therapists in all service branches. She confidently conducted multiple informational interviews using the same principles I shared with those leaving active duty service or making a career change. I believe this strategy gave her a competitive edge as she was selected as the Air Force’s ONE direct commission for Occupational Therapy for 2021!
On July 4, 2021 I stood before my daughter in San Diego’s beautiful Liberty Station and administered the Oath of Office to her surrounded by family and friends. It was at that moment that I knew that we had a new connection and it is almost indescribable the feeling as a Mother I had saying those words to her. She stood proud and smartly repeated the oath but slowly I felt myself choking up as I thought of all the trials, experiences, and lessons I knew she was about to face. It was as if all my time in service flashed before my eyes. The next day she boarded a plane to Maxwell AFB in Alabama to begin her training at Officer Training School. If that wasn’t enough excitement for our family, two days later my step son boarded a plane to Great Lakes, IL to begin his chapter serving in the United States Navy.
I am happy to say that both new service members are excelling in their new positions in their respective branches of service. I have had opportunities to have conversations with both of them that a mother never really thinks she will have! We have discussed how to wear and approach chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) training, the rank structure, how to wear your uniform as well as some of the deeper conversations regarding women in service. Being a Marine was a way of life for me and I find myself encouraging them to immerse themselves in their new environments but at the same time ensure they don’t forget who they are and their personal values. This feeling for me as a parent is surreal and it is hard to find the words to describe the feeling of the title I now embrace; Military Mom. With Veterans Day right around the corner our family pauses not only to thank each other and our lifelong friends we served with but to give gratitude to our new legacy and chapter of defenders, our children. Semper Fidelis Samantha and Trevor! I am eternally grateful for you stepping up to the task of serving our great Nation.