Collage of TriWest Employees Black History Month

Black History Proudly Shines Through TriWest Employees

“Black History Month provides an opportunity to reflect on all the sacrifices that my ancestors and everyone who helped lift them up endured in order for us to be where we are today.” –Donny Moncrief, Army Veteran, TriWest Behavioral Health Service Manager

Black History Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate the contributions Black Americans have made on behalf of our nation, including their long and important role in our country’s military dating as far back as the Revolutionary War.

For generations, Black Americans have fought and sacrificed for this country. Through slavery, the Civil War and decades of discrimination and mistreatment, Black Americans endured, fought and sacrificed for the chance to prove their strength, bravery and patriotism.

In this article, we share the stories of three TriWest employees with a deeply personal connection to the military and its rich history within Black families.

Donny Moncrief – Army Veteran, TriWest Behavioral Health Service Manager

Donny Moncrief describes himself as “a country boy from Mississippi raised by great people with even greater hearts.”

Donny shared that he grew up in poverty, but even still, he knew he was fortunate. He gives full credit to his parents. “They always kept a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food on the table. Not too shabby for two people who dropped out of school around junior high,” he said.

Besides keeping him safe and fed, Donny’s parents provided invaluable lessons throughout his life.

“Both my parents instilled the values of hard work and respect into us,” he shared. “They taught us never to accept handouts and to earn our way.Donny Assault Gunners

Donny took their advice seriously and began mowing lawns when he was just 13. By high school, he held two jobs at once.

“I inherited those values as a youngster. Passed on from my parents, instilled by my grandparents, inherited from my great-grandparents. Those values run through me today as much as the blood that we share,” he explained.

With a strong foundation from his family, Donny enlisted in the military before his junior year of high school.

Donny described the deep connection he felt to Black Americans who served before him.

“My culture has a lasting tradition of service in the Armed Forces, which precedes the Civil War,” he said. “I was simply following in the footsteps of trailblazers who paved the way, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the Buffalo Soldiers.”

Donny was able to use their strength to build his own.

“Everyone who wiggled through the maze before me was fighting for something,” he said.  “I saw it in their faces, and I felt it in my spirit.”

And that spirit is strong. Donny has a tattoo that reads, “Face the world or cry.” For him, those five words capture his experience in the military and as a Black American.

“Facing the world requires strength and that is what I represent,” he explained. “That is what my ancestors represent!”

While Donny expressed a deep understanding of the impact of race on one’s experience, he also shared the incredible bond and connection he had with everyone while serving.

“In the Army, we defend the colors red, white and blue. We do it as one color…green! Olive drab green,” Donny said. “You might be light green or dark green, but you are still green, and we were all willing to bleed red!”

For Donny, Black History Month is an important time to reflect.

“You cannot move forward if you do not know where you have been,” he said. “Black History Month provides an opportunity to reflect on all the sacrifices that my ancestors and everyone who helped lift them up endured in order for us to be where we are today.”

Donny and his family had an opportunity to visit Africa a few years ago, which Donny describes as a “humbling, encouraging and profound trip.”Donny in Africa

“I ran on the beach of my ancestors,” Donny shared. “I saw people, my people, demonstrating so much pride and hustle. I listened to stories of the Mau Mau, a fierce tribe of warriors in Africa. In the slums, I saw people with their own businesses, making the best out of their circumstances.”

The significance of all of this made a profound impact on Donny.Donny Masai 1

“This is the blood that runs through me too. Una nguvu, which is Swahili for ‘You are strong,” he explained.

In thinking about his own role in all of this, Donny has a blueprint he hopes to pass on to his own children.

“Never forget where you came from,” he said. “Always help others. Be respectful and work hard. Stand up for what you believe in.”

Those are the values that his parents and grandparents instilled in him that still reign supreme today. “What I pass on will also become a part of my history and will highlight the history of my ancestors.”

Erica Alexander – Daughter of an Air Force Veteran, TriWest Human Capital HRIS Analyst

Erica Alexander has been with TriWest since 2019 and was born and raised in Arkansas.Erica Black History Month

Her work at TriWest enables her to serve on behalf of our nation’s Veterans, but Erica has a deeply personal connection to the military community as well.

“I am very proud of my dad serving in the Air Force, especially since it was during the time when he had to love his country when it didn’t love him back,” Erica shared.

Erica’s description of her father’s military experience highlighted some of the discrimination and racism Black Service members had to endure.

“My father knew he would not be respected in the South and that was even more evident when he was stationed in Mississippi,” she explained.

She shared a story from his time in the military: “When my father needed a haircut, he put on his uniform and was still told they don’t cut ‘colored boys’ hair and to get out.”

Erica’s father then had the awful realization that many other Black Service members had during that period of our nation’s history.

“He was more respected in Thailand than in parts of his own country,” she said.

However, despite these struggles during his military service and the continual fight to be treated as equal, Erica’s father is a proud Black Veteran.

“My dad is very proud of the time he spent in the military,” she said. “His experiences, both good and bad, forced him to grow up and molded him to be the man he is today.”

Erica and her father now see the incredible benefits his time in the military provided their family.

“It awarded him the opportunity to work in the oil refinery industry for 40 years, put three children through college and play as much golf as he wants while enjoying retirement,” Erica shared.

Stephanie Everson – Daughter of an Air Force Veteran, TriWest Human Capital Senior Recruiter

For Stephanie Everson, the daughter of an Air Force Veteran, military life is the only one she’s ever known. Stephanie was born in Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, and embraced her father’s military service even at a young age.

“I have always taken pride in being a military brat,” she said.

One of Stephanie’s happiest memories was getting her military ID at 10 years old.

“I felt so grown up and privileged to be the daughter of someone serving this nation,” she recalled.

Stephanie has other memories of her father’s service too – like the excitement she felt when her father’s squadron had family picnics.

“He felt so proud showing us off, and we made friends with the other Service members’ children,” she shared.

Stephanie recalled the deep support the military families and community shared for one another as she was growing up. One year, when her father was stationed in Vietnam, Stephanie’s mother had all of their gifts stolen from the trunk of her car just two days before Christmas.

“When the base squadron found out, they immediately worked with the NCO wives and when my siblings and I woke up on Christmas morning, we had bicycles, baby dolls and new clothes. They’d replaced everything stolen and more,” she reflected.

Now, as an adult, Stephanie lives minutes from Luke Air Force Base and still goes to the commissary and exchange services with her family members.

“Whenever I go on base, there is something different about the environment,” she said. “It’s like a different culture. Everyone is kind and helpful and strikes up random conversations.”

Stephanie’s family is now full of Service members and Black Veterans – something Stephanie is extremely proud of.Stephanie Everson BHM food 2

“I take pride in being the daughter, aunt, niece and sister-in-law to some of the most generous and patriotic Black Veterans in my family,” she said. “They all have unique stories, and I have great admiration for them all.”

The military serves as a backdrop for many of the lessons Stephanie and her family hold close.

“My father always stressed how he overcame adversity and showed strength, how he was resilient and determined to meet his goals,” she explained. “This was modeled before me, so it only makes sense that I practice and pass these same traits to my daughter and grandchildren.”

And it’s not just Stephanie. Both of Stephanie’s sisters married military men, which set a trend within their family of cousins, nieces and nephews also enlisting.

“My grandsons are reminded they come from a strong line of leaders; they are just as valued and intelligent as anyone else, and they can do hard things,” Stephanie said.

When she thinks about the generations of Black men and women who have served our country, she hopes they remember they are valued and just as patriotic as anyone else.

“I hope they feel proud of serving their country even when they may feel the country doesn’t always serve them,” she said.

Like Erica, Stephanie understands the hardships Black Americans have faced within the military.Stephanie Everson BHM Food 3

“As wonderful as a career in the military service was, they also experienced systemic racism and battled for equality within the military,” she explained. “With persistence and resilience, they remained steadfast and retired with honors.”

For Stephanie and her family, every month is Black History Month.

“We take pride in the sacrifices our ancestors made. Because of their strength, we stand on the shoulders of some mighty and resilient people,” she said. “Black History Month serves as a platform to honor their service, commemorate their achievements and acknowledge their accomplishments, while remembering the ongoing challenges and advocating for equity and inclusivity in the military and society at large.”

Every year, Stephanie and her family host a Black History Month brunch.Stephanie Everson BHM Food

“It’s an event to honor our Service members past and present and reflect on our accomplishments as Black people, as well as the work that must still be done,” she shared.

For Donny, Erica and Stephanie, Black History Month provides a chance for them to reflect on the lessons instilled in them by their own families and the countless others who came before them. Thank you for sharing your stories and highlighting the profound role Black Americans have played in our nation’s military history.

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