Lila Holley is a combat Veteran and retired US Army Warrant Officer. She is a multiple award-winning, Amazon bestselling author who partners with other courageous military women and women Veterans to share their stories of success in the military despite facing challenges along their journey.
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Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast, where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, on this podcast we'll share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let's get on with the show today. My guest is Lila Holley. Lila is a combat veteran and retired US Army Warrant Officer. She's a multiple award-winning Amazon best-selling author, who partners with other greatest military women and women veterans to share their stories of success in the military, despite facing challenges along their journey. So welcome to the show. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Lila Holley: 00:00:47 Well, thank you so much for having me Scott, like you said, my name is Lila Holley. I am an army veteran. I served 22 years active duty and traveled the globe. That was my objective and I succeeded. And in those 22 years I had a great career and I was ready to retire. It was time to retire. But you know, I think I learned some of the biggest lessons in that transition out of the military. Like a lot of veterans, it was a very emotional process. I felt like I wasn't really prepared for, I wasn't even kind of forewarned about it, so I learned a lot during that time. And that's where this next career came from. I guess, becoming an author and sharing my story and just creating this platform for so many other women to share their amazing stories as well.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:01:43 That's great. And so your transition out of the military-led you to what you're doing now. And so tell us a little bit about that transition and what that was like, and how that led you to where you are now.
Lila Holley: 00:01:59 Yeah. You know, at 22 years, I mean, you kinda know when it's time to retire, you kind of get that feeling. So, it was definitely time. My career has run the course. I felt like I had achieved success in my eyes and that's really all that really matters when you're at that stage in your career. Like, what does success look like for you? And so make sure it's identified by you. Like not anybody else, don't let them force you to push you to stay longer. Obviously, I could have stayed longer, but nope. It was time to transition. And so like I said, it was you know, I should have known having lived life and gone through a lot of transitions myself already that every transitional moment in life comes with a lot of emotions.
Lila Holley: 00:02:45 And so I wasn't even thinking about that. I was just like, it's time to retire. It's kind of a go, let's go, let's get on up out of here and go to the next chapter. But those emotions really got me hung up. I felt things that I couldn't properly explain to my family to help me through. I hit a lot of my emotions. I felt like I beat myself up a lot thinking you should be able to push through this thing. They shouldn't have you hung up like this was going on. I really humbled myself and tapped into the resources that are available to us as veterans that I had never, ever used in my career. And as for mental health services, you know I was military intelligence, so I held a top-secret clearance.
Lila Holley: 00:03:30 And so, you gotta protect that class at all costs. You gotta protect your career at all costs. And so it's just some things that you figure out along the way in your military career because the mission comes first and everything else comes second. So you kind of figure out those emotions and how to process them and keep on going. And I did just that, but in transition, you don't have that luxury, right. You have to face those emotions head-on. And I struggled a little bit and I was just thankful that I was able to tap into that resource at the VA and the mental health services there. And, they really helped me. They really assured me that the things that I had already implemented in my day-to-day to push through were gonna help me get through that challenging time. And so I was confident to know that the things that I had learned in the military, the things that kept me strong and kept me going in the military were the same things that were going to help me in life after the military. So I was really confident to know that. And it was comforting to hear that from the counselors that I've met with at the VA.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:04:35 Well, that's great. And so that led you into a new mission of helping out other veterans who are finding themselves in a similar situation. So tell us about what you're doing now and where you came up with the idea and how all of that evolved.
Lila Holley: 00:04:53 Yeah. So during that time, I started journaling because that was one thing that really helped me. And so I was journaling about my journey about some of the tools that helped me during that time. And as a result of that, I transitioned all those thoughts and journal entries into my first self-published book, because I felt like I had a great support system around me. My husband was a veteran. I had a very supportive family but I thought about the 22 that they tell us, veterans and service members, that commit suicide every day. I thought about those guys. And I thought about man, what about the folks that don't have a strong support system? And so I felt like what better way to get this information out, these tools that helped me get it out to the masses through a book.
Lila Holley: 00:05:45 And so that's why I self-published the things that helped me through that struggle or that challenging time and my transition. And so that's where the journey to becoming a published author came from, just journaling my experiences and really being vulnerable and opening up and telling my story, because I felt depression, struggles, mental health issues, they have no respect for people. They have no respect for their rank, and everybody can struggle. And I feel like our fellow service members have to know that and that will make them more comfortable themselves to go out and get the help that they need and not resort to such a permanent option such as suicide. And so that was my main objective there. And then just taking that book on the road, speaking to other veterans, and getting in front of people whenever I could.
Lila Holley: 00:06:44 I volunteered a lot. I started talking to other women veterans, and I was like, man, this can't be just my experience. Like this can't just be like an anomaly. Other people have had to feel this same way and sure enough; it's like a normal part of the transition process to have a little emotional hiccup here and there, but you gotta be able to push through. And the great thing about us veterans is we're already equipped with what we need to be able to push through that. And so during my volunteer time speaking with other veterans, I was like, man, we have some amazing stories. Who's telling our stories, especially women veterans, who's telling our stories. And I took note of that like veterans day would come around and I would hear the stories of women veterans.
Lila Holley: 00:07:29 And it was always with the media sharing the downtrodden, the sad and down and out story of the woman veteran and not to say that those stories aren't relevant, but that's not the whole story. Like that's not her whole story. That's just like a piece of her story, you know? And I took note of who's telling these stories and it wasn't us. And I said, man, we gotta tell our own stories. And so I connected with a publisher, told her my idea of creating this platform for women to be able to share their stories and <inaudible> She loved it. In 2015 we published our first book and this year we're going to be releasing our eighth book in the series. Wow. I can't believe it.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:08:17 And that's great. And so you're out there giving voices to people to get their story told and put it out there in a way that maybe they wouldn't have felt comfortable doing otherwise on their own, the way you took that leap in publishing. But you know, some other people may not be quite as willing to put the story out there and it kind of helps give them that platform to tell their story. Right?
Lila Holley: 00:08:44 Yeah. If it's more comforting to know that all of our books, our Camouflaged Sisters books are anthologies. And so there are a group of women sharing their story in one book. And so, I mean in the military and especially in the Army the battle buddy system is what we're taught. So to have a group to travel with you and go on a journey with you is always a good thing. And so I'm very hands-on with my co-authors that come on board. I use social media a lot to find the ladies or for them to find me. And I'm very hands-on in the process because we never want to trigger anybody. We never want anybody to fall back into a dark space. We always want to make sure they're in a good healing headspace to share.
Lila Holley: 00:09:33 Because these are tough stories that they're sharing. You know, I always want to make sure they're in a good headspace to share their stories and they are; we haven't had any issues. Most ladies know what they want to get out of the experience. If it's just to get the story off their chest to help other women, or if it's to take the process of becoming an author a little further, then I'm there to help them either way; whatever they want to get out of the experience. But it is confident to know that with each project you have ladies to the left and to the right of you sharing their story as well. It's a little bit more confident to know that. And so it's not as nerve-wracking to be the only one putting my whole life story out there in the book.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:10:20 Exactly. And I think even from just thinking about a social situation where you're going to a place where maybe you don't know anybody who's there, it's better to go to that place with a friend or someone who does know other people and they can introduce you and they can ease you into the situation. So that way it's not like just jumping into the deep end and feeling like you got water above your head and you're drowning. It's easier to go along with other people. And so that's a great way to do it with an anthology series where you have people writing books together and telling their stories together and collaborating in that way. And it probably is even good for the comradery to build with each other to get that kind of bond between these people who are writing these stories. Right?
Lila Holley: 00:11:15 Yeah, absolutely. I always tell people that it started with the books but it's more than books. It's the movement now, and we're a true sisterhood. I really pride myself on creating a safe space for the ladies to share their stories. And the books are just one piece of what we do. We get together, we've been using Zoom before it was a thing during this pandemic because we have co-authors from Guam, all the way to Washington state now, and every point in between, even Hawaii. For us to stay connected and for us to communicate as the projects are released and different things and opportunities become available for the ladies, we have to stay connected. So every month we do a sisterhood chat, we get together and that's really our safe space to talk about things and challenges that we face as women veterans because our experiences as women veterans is different than just the average woman.
Lila Holley: 00:12:15 So being a mother and a woman veteran, there's a little added level there that a regular woman, who's just a mother who hasn't served, may or may not be able to connect with you on that level from that experience. You know what I mean? So, we do our monthly sisterhood chest to create that safe space. So the ladies can come and we talk a lot about self-care. That was something else. I took note that a lot of times us women veterans, we take care of everybody else, but we save the scraps and the crumbs for ourselves. And so I really pushed self care and the art of saying no and really protecting your space and your peace. We talk a lot about that.
Lila Holley: 00:13:02 It's like you said, it's really comforting to have this sisterhood of not only other women who have found the courage to share their stories, but just really understand what you're going through as a woman veteran, like the nuances that brings to your life the different levels of your life and whether it's in a relationship with your children or your spouse, or your family, or whoever, with yourself, you know? And so it's really confident to have to be a part of, not only the book product but then to find yourself part of this whole sisterhood that is there to support you on this journey.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:13:46 Yeah. And you're talking about how sometimes these people aren't taking care of them themselves first and not that self-care thing. And I always equate that back to whenever you're on an airplane, they always say, if the oxygen masks come down, put your mask on first and then help somebody else because the whole reason why they say that is because if you don't and you end up passing out, you're not going to be any use to that other person either. So that analogy just has stuck with me for so long about taking care of yourself and not looking at it in a selfish way. You know, you're not being selfish by taking care of yourself. You're actually enabling yourself to help others by helping yourself. And so it's actually a very selfless thing to do it by going out and helping yourself and not being selfish about it, just doing the things that you need saying no when you have to say no and doing the things that make sense for you, and then you're able to go out and help other people the way that you want to and be the best version of yourself that you could be,
Lila Holley: 00:15:04 That's it right there. It'd be the best version of yourself that you can be.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:15:09 Right. You know, and you do it all the time too. When you were in the military you know, a lot of times when you get out of the military, you let this slide, but when you're in the military, you exercise a lot and you take care of yourself and it's not like you're just being selfish and focusing on you, that's what is required of you in order to do the mission, do the job that you're expected to do. Like you're just taking care of yourself so that you can take care of other people, you know?
Lila Holley: 00:15:38 Yeah. But you know, women, God made us nurturers by nature. And that's what we do. You know, we take care of everybody. And I mean, I know you have women in your life who you're like, Hey, just take a break, you don't have to cook tonight. You just go get a pedicure or take a break, go take a bubble bath. You know, you have to force them to go and take some time for themselves, because that's what we do. A lot of times we find joy in that. But like you said, to be your best self and to show up as your best self for others, you have to sometimes pause and take a break and step away and take a bubble bath, go get a pedicure and get your manicure just take a walk, read a book, disconnect whatever you need to do.
Lila Holley: 00:16:25 A lot of times as women, we forget about ourselves, just because it's not as natural for us to take care of ourselves; as mothers, we take care of our children, we take care of our spouses. We take care of our aging parents and it's so natural to us. And then all of a sudden you're like, oh man, I forgot to take care of myself. I didn't get my massage this month. You know, you gotta put that on a schedule, pencil it in, and make sure you don't miss that appointment, but you're right. That's the only way to take care of yourself first. The only way you're going to be able to show up as your best self for those you really want to take care of.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:17:07 Yes, exactly. I think that that's very well put, as far as that goes. I think I've talked about the importance of sharing your story, steering your own personal story. On this podcast, we've had other authors, other people who have gone out in public ways and shared their story. I think that it's an important thing for us to do. I've recently written a book called Surviving Son and it tells my story. On this podcast, I talk about my story all the time. And I think from my point of view, the importance of it is so that other people can understand your perspective and that they can understand what you've gone through and maybe have a little more compassion for you, or just general awareness of what someone has gone through during their military service. And maybe they haven't served and they want to know more about the military. You know, it's just an important thing. What is your point of view? What is your perspective on the people sharing their story and why do you think that it's so important for people to get out there and share those stories, whether it's through a book or a podcast or some other medium.
Lila Holley: 00:18:27 Yeah. I love what you said for people to get your perspective and to have compassion towards you and your experiences. And so like I said earlier, I might be a spouse and a mother, but my experiences are, I grew up in the military. I served in the military and another woman who hasn't had that experience is not going to know why I am the way I am with my children or why I'm the way I am with my spouse. Why I am the way I am, period, as a woman, because of that experience of serving in the military. You're absolutely right. I think not only does it allow people who have never served in the military, understand why we are the way we are from that experience, but it also lets those who have served or who are currently serving know that you're not alone in your journey.
Lila Holley: 00:19:18 You're not alone in your struggles. You're not alone in your feelings. And especially as women veterans that's for me the main purpose of Camouflage Sisters is to let other women know other women who are wearing a uniform know that you are not alone because we talk about tough topics. But the way we write is we tell the whole story. So we take a piece of our story, whatever that is. We tell the ugly truth and we tell the lessons learned, and we tell how we grew from that experience, what we learned from it and how we grew from it. And so if a woman reads our books and she's experienced in toxic leadership, for instance, she can find a story in the books about somebody who dealt with toxic leadership during their career and how they got through.
Lila Holley: 00:20:07 And some of the things they had, some of the challenges they faced, how they got through that and what they learned from that experience and how they grew from it. And then they can be encouraged or inspired by that story and say, oh man, that's similar to what I'm going through now. And I can make it through because she did and may even be more inclined to even reach out to that sister in arms and just kind of get a friend or get a mentor to help her through whatever challenges she may be facing in her life or her career. And so when sharing your story, I think as veterans, especially, it is really important for us to share our stories, because like I said, those 22 that resort to that final solution of suicide, all they need to hear is, Hey, I went through that too.
Lila Holley: 00:20:53 I made it through, here's how I got through it. I had some dark days. I'm telling you by sharing a story. I just sat in on a virtual event that the Texas veterans commission has this week. And that's what they did. They shared their story. They shared how they came through suicide attempts and it was the fact that they shared their story, the fact that other people share their story as well. And the fact that they were heard when sharing their story, that saved their life. And I just thought that was so impactful and so powerful that there's so much power in our stories. And that's the main thing I want to express to the women, especially because a lot of times you don't hear our stories. You know, you see the movies and the TV shows.
Lila Holley: 00:21:40 And even on veteran's day, we go out with our spouses and both of us served and who gets the thank you for your service greeting, my husband does look right over me and my husband's like, Hey, she served as well. You know? And they're like, oh, okay. So we're still dealing with that in 2021 as women. And you know, it's a little jab to your band to be like, man the women are serving in the military. Like we've been there, we've been serving so acknowledge us. And that's what people just want. Like I said, people just want to be heard. They want their story to be heard. They want their voice to be heard and they want to feel relevant. And so when we share our stories, that's when we have these platforms, like you said, podcasts, books, any other type of medium, blogs, movies, and TV shows, they give us an outlet to share our stories, like you said, for people to be compassionate.
Lila Holley: 00:22:45 And for those others who may feel isolated or forgotten about, or feel like their story doesn't even matter to realize like, oh man, that's similar to my story. So yeah, my story is important. My story does matter. And so that's the main thing, to see it for yourself, you can say, oh, okay, well, I can do that to her. I could tell my story to her. Hey, my voice is important as well. So I mean, if women were never allowed to tell their story, I'd never even thought that we wouldn't have in the states, I'm in the state of Texas. So Texas leads the way in terms of they passed the law that June 12th is women's veterans day and not to separate us out, but to acknowledge the contribution of women in the history of our nation's military.
Lila Holley: 00:23:37 And so that felt pretty good to be a part of that celebration and to just have a day to be like, oh, thanks for your service, thanks to the women for their service. So I feel like it's all because women were brave enough to tell their stories. That's all, it's important that veterans find ways to share our story, even if it's at the VA. And I love going to the VA hospital because some of those old veterans love to tell you they'll burn your ear off telling their stories. Right. I love it. We had one guy in line, he was a hundred years old and we were like, oh my gosh, you're a hundred years old. And we were like, can we take a picture with you and we were treating him like a celebrity? Because to us, he is a celebrity.
Lila Holley: 00:24:22 And so, I mean, he got a kick out of that and I feel it brings us together. It kind of tears down the walls of separation. And we had, at that point, a commonality. And like you said earlier, you would give an example of going to an event or going somewhere. You always look for that veteran. Because you know, when you sit or you're like you, sir, right there. Right. And I think our stories definitely connect us and they let others know how important their voice and their story and their experiences are and it validates them.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:24:58 Yeah, absolutely. And I think something that you said earlier by someone else hearing someone's story and saying, Hey, I went through that too. And that just gives someone else the confidence to know that, Hey, someone else has gone through this. I can do it too. You know, and someone else has gone through this before me. Why can't I do it too? And so when someone's ready to give up, because they think that they've tried everything and then hold up, let's pump the brakes here. There's someone else who's gone through this. And they've come out okay on the other end of that struggle, I can do it too. You know, it gives that person hope. And that's a lot of what I try to do on this podcast too, is talk to those people
Scott DeLuzio: 00:25:50 who've struggled. I'm not going to try to lie and say, everything's rainbows and unicorns here but we have troubles in our lives and it's okay. That's all part of being human. And part of being a veteran is there's going to be some hard times, but we can get through them. We can get through these hard times and getting through these things is all part of the process. And by sharing those stories of those people who've struggled, gotten through it, and came out better for it, I think that just gives hope to those people who might be struggling.
Lila Holley: 00:26:29 Absolutely. Absolutely.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:26:32 So with everything that's been going on in the news lately with the Afghanistan situation, I'm sure some of the people in your network have served overseas, have served in Afghanistan, and in particular, what have you been seeing in your community with regards to the people wanting to connect or to have their stories be told or in their voices be heard about the situation that's been going on over there?
Lila Holley: 00:26:57 Well, I know that's a good question. You know, like I said, we have prided ourselves on creating a safe space for the ladies. I'm in a couple of different groups on social media, Facebook and they've created space for the ladies to get together and just share their emotions and things like that. I think the main thing that I've seen is that room to allow veterans to express their feelings while in uniform, you don't get that. Like, when I was coming up, I came up through the nineties and 2000. So it didn't do feelings. If they wanted to have feelings, we've issued those to you, but no, we didn't do that. And so you just pushed on my perspective being military intelligence, I kind of understand I look at it from that perspective.
Lila Holley: 00:27:51 And so I kind of look at it a little differently, in terms of understanding like national security and making sure it makes strategic sense for us too. So I look at it a little bit more analytically. I didn't go to Afghanistan. I served in Iraq and Bosnia and other places, but I understand the emotions and I understand people feeling a certain kind of way from watching what happened after all that time put in, having lost battle buddies over there, and having served multiple deployments over there. But sometimes we gotta pull ourselves out of the emotions of a thing and especially as military, we kind of understand strategy. We can look at things strategically and make it make sense to us. But that doesn't like you said, that doesn't mean that there's not going to be some emotions there because what you're seeing is very heartbreaking to see the people suffering and to see the way it all ended.
Lila Holley: 00:28:51 Could it have been done better? Absolutely. There's always a better solution for things but the one thing that I was comforted by was the fact that people who have groups or people who are other veterans out there create a safe space for veterans to share their emotions. They validated their feelings and they gave them room to process those feelings as well. So I think that was from what I saw on our veterans' side, that that was probably the best thing that came out of it is like, it's okay to feel the way you feel and let's meet, let's talk, let's get it out. You know, don't keep it bottled up. Don't wallow in it. And like you said, don't find a permanent solution for sadness and these emotions that you're feeling, let's talk about this. And you got a whole band of brothers and sisters here that are here to help you make sense of this and let you get into a headspace where you can move forward through this.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:29:58 Yeah, absolutely. I think that's well put and I'm glad that there is that network out there for people to reach out to and speak to and feel comfortable talking about what it is that they have going on in their heads about the situation and everything. And I know it's a difficult situation for a lot of people to talk about. Some people may just close up and I'm glad that there is a safe community where people can come and open up and express their feelings about the situation. So, it's great that you're doing that, and I'm grateful that there are these communities like this out there. Anything else that you have going on that people can look forward to. I know you have been talking about a number of books and I'm just curious to see if there's anything else in the works over the next few months that might be interesting for the listeners to know about.
Lila Holley: 00:30:56 Yes. So we do have another book coming out, our eighth project where we come out later this year; we're finishing up the final edits on that. So I'm excited about that project with 14 new ladies. And this time we have a spouse, we have a mother of two veterans and we have a caregiver and so their perspectives and their stories of how they're connected to the military are so interesting. And so heartfelt, especially the caregiver story of talking about being a military dependent, taking care of her veteran father. I mean, it's such a heart-touching story. I can't wait for this project to come out for people to be able to see it and to read these stories is going to be Behind the Rank Volume five. That'll be the fifth and final volume in that series of our Camouflage Sisters books.
Lila Holley: 00:31:48 Recently we just had an amazing podcast project that we put out as a dramatic reading of a few of our stories; through voice media, we shared it on our social media page. So a few were interested in hearing that, and they really did an amazing job of capturing our stories and sharing them. And there are so many outlets out there. If you're interested in sharing your story, there are so many outlets out there and you can become a part of them to share your story and just find your voice. Our stories are so powerful, they're so relevant and people want to hear them, my dog, don't hold on to your story. You know, I met so many amazing, amazing people when we were doing book tours before the pandemic.
Lila Holley: 00:32:37 I just was, wow, man, I gotta get you in a book. I gotta know, when are you writing your book? I want to read that story. We have amazing, amazing stories of inspiration, encouragement, motivation. Like, don't sit on your story. God gave you those experiences for a reason. And the world is waiting, the world is waiting to hear from you. So we have the podcast out and then we have another book project coming out. But yeah, connect with us on social media to see what we got going on.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:33:10 Yeah. And where can people go to get in touch with you and connect with you and find out more about the books and the podcast and everything?
Lila Holley: 00:33:17 Okay. We're on Facebook as Camouflaged Sisters, LLC. You will find us there camouflage with a D sisters with an S at the end, LLC on Facebook. We also have a group called the Sisterhood. That's our group page on Facebook as well. We have an Instagram page Camouflaged Sisters, and we're also on LinkedIn at camouflaged sisters. I'm there as well as Lila Holley. They can reach out to me. We're currently working on revamping our website. So I'm excited about that. I'm working with a woman-owned business to get that done and up and running before the year is out. I'm excited about that and I'm excited about a couple of things coming out. Please connect with us.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:34:06 Excellent. And we will have links to all of these social media sites in the show notes. So if anyone's looking to connect go ahead, click through on the show notes and you can find them there or, find them the normal way that you would just search on any other social media platform. So thank you. It's been a pleasure speaking with you today. I've really enjoyed hearing your story and hearing about all that you're doing for the veterans in your community. I'm really grateful that there are people like you out there who are getting out there and networking and connecting these people together to get these great stories out there.
Lila Holley: 00:34:49 Well, congratulations on your book, Scott, I'm so excited for you. Please reach out, let me know if I can do anything to help you promote it and this podcast, thank you for what you're doing with your podcast. Creating another space for us to share our stories of having me on today. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:35:05 Thank you very much. Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website Drive On Podcast.com. We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.