When Julie learned that her close friend Dan Cuddy had recently joined the Brighton Marine organization as the Director of Community and Government Relations, she was curious to learn more about what’s happening around the campus these days.
Julie recounted that she was initially introduced to Brighton Marine for the first time when she was about 5 years old, when her mother worked on-site at the hospital as a nurse.
Julie Desmond comes from a long line of military service, tracing her family’s military roots all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Born into a family with such a strong military background and history of service, it’s no surprise that Julie was coaxed into enlisting herself when she was 17 years old and newly graduated from Newton North High School.
“I was probably the most unlikely person you would have ever thought to join the military,” Julie says with a laugh. She notes that having grown up with a father that was so heavily involved in the military her whole life, she had a taste of what it would be like to be a part of that world and it intrigued her.
Julie’s family history is nothing short of impressive. Her stepdad served over 20 years in the Air National Guard, and her father was a Marine Corps Veteran that did two tours in Vietnam during his 21 years of service. Julie’s grandfather was stationed overseas during WWII where he served in the Army Air Corps, one of her cousins is a retired Marine Reservist, and another cousin served in the Army. On her father’s side, Julie said that they’ve been able to trace his family back all the way to the 1600s where they discovered relatives that had actually served in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, so the military roots run strong.
Having been initially introduced to the Air National Guard by her stepdad, Julie made the decision to join and served for about nine years before leaving to start a family. That all changed after September 11th when she felt compelled to reenlist.
Julie recalled that she was re-enlisted for all of six weeks before she got the call that she was going overseas to work in Oman, where she spent six and a half months working in the Combat Communications Unit. “It was an unbelievable experience, and I still can’t believe that I went,” she said. “I spent nine years in the Air National Guard and never went anywhere. Fort Drum, New York was as far as I had ever been.” She continued for three years until she found out she was expecting her second child, and that’s when she decided not to reenlist.
Going overseas was the catalyst for the sense of pride she developed for the military. “It was monumental,” she said. “That whole time was just crazy. To be over there serving, and to be able to see both sides of how everything operates was life changing.”
She credits her service with having instilled a great sense of discipline with how she approaches her everyday work, and an incredible sense of confidence which she says she didn’t have as a young teen, fresh out of high school. In her life post-service, Julie now does administrative work in the corporate world which she says her role in Communications with the Air National Guard prepared her well for.
A mother of three children ranging in age from 13 to 22 years, Julie quipped that raising kids is definitively more challenging than serving in the military. When asked if she applies any of the skills she picked up in service to manage her household, she noted with a chuckle, “It’s not like I run a little army at home.” Adding, “But I made sure that my kids know the meaning of the flag. They know that I served overseas, and they have a sense of pride for their country. I’ve definitely instilled a sense of patriotism into them. We visit the graves at cemeteries, and they know who has served in their family.”
Julie’s recounted that her father had recently passed away, and the family arranged a full military send-off for his funeral. Because Julie had been inactive for more than 15 years, this was the first real exposure her kids have had to the military world and seeing the unity of the Armed Forces coming together made a major impression on them.
When asked about the Veterans issues she feels most passionately about, Julie said, “The thing that moves me the most is walking around in Boston and seeing the Vets with nowhere to go, just out on the street. That just breaks my heart.”
On her recent visit to the Brighton Marine campus with Dan, Julie said that she was in absolute awe at the services and the housing that the organization now has available to Veterans. In her opinion, housing and job resources are the two most important issues facing Veterans in Massachusetts today, adding that it was important to give Veterans the opportunity to provide for themselves and feel that sense of pride again.
“Everybody has a different story. Everybody has different needs. Getting out in the community, like Brighton Marine does, is so important to be able to target the specific needs of the Veterans they serve, to help them be healthy, happy and successful.”
Julie noted that having the kind of wraparound services and additional resources that Brighton Marine offers to Veterans is extremely important. In her experience, many of the larger Veterans organizations’ resources are tapped, adding, “It’s so incredible to be able to have an organization like Brighton Marine to be able to help these folks out so they have another resource to connect them with the things they need and keep them on the right track so they can be successful going forward.”
While on campus, Julie had the chance to speak with Brighton Marine’s Former Director of Veterans Programs and Services, Bob Notch, who was able to provide her with some guidance on Veterans services that she was unaware that she was eligible for. She noted that as is often the case with other Veterans, there is a lack of knowledge of the resources that are out there and available to Veterans in need.
“As a mother trying to send kids off to college, I’ve had questions about things like financial aid or tuition help for my children,” Julie notes. “What kind of benefits do we get? What are we eligible for? When I try to research what’s out there for me on my own, I don’t get very far. I either get too frustrated or overwhelmed, and I just don’t know what’s out there for me. Bob [Notch] had mentioned a couple of things to me, and I just had no idea.”
She emphasized the importance of communicating the resources available to Veterans and lauded Brighton Marine’s community outreach efforts, adding that she was extremely grateful for the guidance she received. Julie hopes that more Veterans will hear about Brighton Marine and seek out the assistance they need.
Thank you, Julie for sharing your story and for your service!