Kerri Jeter talks to us about the power of sharing your story. We all have a story, and that story can be used to inspire and give hope to others. It's a large part of why I interview guests on this podcast, and Kerri does a great job with telling us why that's important.
Links & Resources
- Shero Talk Event
- Kerri Jeter LinkedIn
- Freedom Sisters on Instagram
- Freedom Sisters on Facebook
- Ms. Veteran America 2015
Scott DeLuzio: 00:03 Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we talk about issues affecting Veterans after they get out of the military. Before we get started, I'd like to ask a favor if you haven't done so already, please rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts. If you've already done that, thank you. These ratings help the show get discovered so it can reach a wider audience. And while you're there, click the subscribe button so that you get notified of new episodes as soon as they come out. If you don't use Apple podcasts, you can visit Drive On Podcasts.com/subscribe to find other ways of subscribing, including our email list. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:44 Hey everyone. Today, my guest is Kerri Jeter. Kerri is an Army Veteran and host of the Freedom Sister’s Podcast. Kerri is joining us today to talk about the power of sharing your story. So, Kerri, welcome to the show. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about your background?
Kerri Jeter: 01:01 Yeah. Hey, thanks Scott. So awesome to be here with you and a little bit more about me. so like you said, I served in the Army. I did 12 years. I was a combination of service, all National Guard, but on orders, dual status technician, deployments, activated, all the things from state emergency duties to deployments. And I started out as enlisted and crossed over, did OCS and commissioned in 2009 and then left the Army as a Senior Captain. I did everything from human resources to public affairs and operations training. You name it, I probably did it.
Scott DeLuzio: 01:50 Yeah. I always like hearing the story behind when people go from enlisted to officer,
Scott DeLuzio: 02:00 It's always an interesting transition, and an interesting dynamic because a lot of times the officers are, especially the newer, the junior officers are sort of seen as green and they don't really know the way things work in the Army and things like that. But then when you have someone who's been enlisted for a period of time beforehand, they've gotten all that, a new guy or new gal feeling out of the way and they hit the ground running and it's always a different dynamic when you have somebody who was enlisted first.
Kerri Jeter: 02:34 Yeah. But it's always a weird interaction too. Especially when you serve with other people. Now you outrank them, they still look at you like the private that served under them. So, you still have to prove your capabilities and your leadership to get the buy in with your people. I went fast. I'm hungry. I'm always hungry for growth and overcoming and achieving. And so, I went from E3to O3 in six years. That's rapid. Even when I was enlisted, I made it all the way up to Sergeant and pinned OCS at about the same time. And so, it was still a rapid experience. I'm so thankful that I did cross over because it allowed me to provide for my family in a bigger and better way.
Kerri Jeter: 03:26 It came with a lot of responsibility though. So that was an interesting time for sure. And so, in the Army, I was a single mom for eight years of that career. And I had three kids at the time when I was in the Army, and now I'm a mom of five and I'm remarried. And my husband is also an Army Veteran. He served for 26 years and we're living I'd say a slower life, but it hasn't really slowed down. We have littles to get in the house, we have a farm and I'm working full time for a local fire, first response districts and running the podcast and trying to build a net, my next dream of where things are going. And everything I've ever done is learned through my story is it's all based on story.
Kerri Jeter: 04:15 It's all sharing information, it's all bringing people up alongside you by sharing your story, building connections by sharing story. And that's really in essence, my whole life has been revolved around it. So, the next right thing for me was the podcast. And, as we continued to talk, just the other things that have grown out of the podcast, it's just all revolved around story. And that's why I'm here today is to connect with you and talk about the power of sharing our stories and how important I think it is really for the Veteran community to share their real stories and their true selves.
Scott DeLuzio: 04:54 Yeah. And that's exactly the reason why I wanted to have you on the show is because I feel a lot of times there's going to be people who feel like their story isn't all that significant. And they don't really feel like they need to share their story or they want to really talk about it or anything like that. And I don't think that could be further from the truth. And I think we all have had different experiences, whether it was through a deployment or even if you've never been deployed, if your National Guard status and you never deployed, and you did your one weekend a month, two weeks a year, you've still had some experiences and you've gone through some transitions, you've gone through training and different things like that. And you still have experiences that can be told and people can learn from those experiences. You briefly mentioned the podcast and we talked about that, previously, but what was the motivation behind starting the podcast for you?
Kerri Jeter: 05:58 So, a little bit more about me. I was Miss Veteran America, 2015 also. And in that tenor of representing women Veterans and getting out and networking and sharing the plight of homeless female Veterans and how we as a community are the fastest growing homeless population in America was astounding to me and learning the reasons behind why homelessness affects us and all of that. It just really sparked this deeper conviction in my heart to humanize who we are as women who served this country. We're not all cookie cutter. We're not just the only three things that sometimes we get put into a box to being when we're in service. And we're not all nurses and it just sparked this passion in me to continue to speak up and be the voice for women who served.
Kerri Jeter: 07:00 And so that's one element that's like multifaceted. I also wanted a space for women who could come share their stories with the spiritual healing element to it. We have so many resources in the Veteran community that help deal with mental illness that help deal with physical rehabilitation, resources to transition from military to civilian. The list goes on and on and on, but there's not a whole lot in the space of spiritual healing and we are, in my opinion, multifaceted people. We are physical, mental and spiritual beings. And when we miss a part of that in our story or in our healing, then we can't completely be healed. And so, I wanted to create a platform that was faith based. Not everyone thinks the same as I do theologically and that's totally okay, but I want them to come on and talk about their journey and how they found God or they found their creator, or they found connection to that source.
Kerri Jeter: 08:01 That's within them to heal and to share what they've been through in that safe space. And so that was another part. And then the last part for me too, personally, it's part of my healing journey. I couldn't come on authentically and ask my ladies to come on and share their stories if I wasn't willing to do the same. And so out of a literal dream of, in a slump, if you will, of not a complete breakdown, because I've had a complete breakdown before, but just like that longing to want more and know that I was made for more, but trying to navigate to find that peace. And so, I went to bed pretty discouraged that night and just praying to God just opened my mind, opened my heart. How can I serve?
Kerri Jeter: 08:49 Where do you need me? And my story, I have some trauma, I have some tragedy, I have some heartache in my story, but it's not as bad as some, but my story still matters. And mine really has a whole lot of some depression and overcoming domestic violence and teen pregnancy and all of those things that not all of my guests connect to, but because I'm authentic and I can say, “Hey, look, I struggled through this and pull my sisters up and let them have a place to share their story is really, all in a nutshell where it came from and why it's so important and why I know it's the
Kerri Jeter: 09:31 best right thing and so needed is that I haven't had to beg, borrow steal for anybody to come on the show and share their story. Women are finding me, I'm connected with them just saying one sentence, like, do you want to share your story? And I've only had one person tell me she was not ready and that's okay, she'll be ready someday. It's just overwhelming everyone saying yes, and everyone's coming on. And it's just such a beautiful thing to see a woman come on and be their true selves. And that's really what it's all about.
Scott DeLuzio: 10:05 Yeah. And some of the stories that I've had on this podcast were the types of stories that were really eye opening. Not everybody is going to connect with your story because I didn't necessarily go through all of the same experiences that you have. But I think that's part of what makes us unique is we have our own story and our own path that we've gone down but there might be bits and pieces of your story that somebody else might be able to resonate with and connect with and hearing your story might be inspiring and uplifting to them. I know I've talked to several people who used to be homeless and you were talking a little bit about homeless Veterans and these people are thriving now. They have their own businesses and they're doing well; their families are great.
Scott DeLuzio: 10:54 I mean, I've never been homeless; so, I can't even imagine what that would be like, but to go from that low point and then figuring out how to get things back on track it's pretty amazing. It makes me think that, even on my worst days, that the way this inspiration works is that even on my worst days, I still have a roof over my head and even if I didn't, for some reason didn't have that roof over my head, I know that there's still hope. If someone else went through this, someone else struggled, they lost their house for whatever reason they were kicked out or whatever, and they still made it out Okay. It's going to take time. We all go through the SOC, if you will, but we all can make it out.
Scott DeLuzio: 11:42 You know? Other people talked about how they found meaning in serving other people. I know you're talking about faith based, and this one guy in particular that I've had on the show was talking how he was healed through the service that he did; acts of service that he did through his church, and then going on mission trips to build houses and things like that in other countries. You can go from that utterly hopeless feeling and then hearing somebody else's story and how that helped them, and then say, you know what, maybe this can work for me. And then suddenly you start to have a little bit of hope and where you're at that low point where maybe you're about to give up, you get a little hope. And so that to me anyways, is sort of the power of sharing a story.
Kerri Jeter: 12:40 Even thinking back to some military experience, like you're in the, the suck of basic training or OCS, and you feel like, can I keep doing this? What did I sign up for? What am I doing? And then your drill Sergeant comes and tells you this story. And it just like lights this fire up again in your belly that you can sit the power of sharing stories and that dialogue that you're influencing your teaching, you're inspiring. And even at OCS, when I was teaching OCS, it was like I was sharing a story to give them the tools for leadership and inspiring them to be a better leader by sharing the experiences that we've had. And I just really think, in a bigger picture now, not just directly to our military folks, but when we share our stories, when we share truth with them, we get to share the heavy stuff that's inside us that allows each of us to carry that heavy stuff with each other.
Kerri Jeter: 13:42 And that's important because, there's a lot of people who suffer in silence in our community because they're scared to say, or they feel like they're all the only ones that experience it. And there's such freedom when you are able to speak that inner truth to somebody else and make that connection. Now you are stronger. You're not just one stranger and so forth that way, that hope can stay alive and not everybody's story is the same. Not everybody has those deep dark places but what's the gift in your story. And it could be just the fact that there's hope, or that you've done this hard thing, or you've been the first to do that. Or it could be a positive thing, right? Like you've had such a great life. You've been able to reach high places. Now you want to give back because you have so much abundance. That's a great story and a great place to be too. It doesn't always have to be a dark story. It definitely is just a way to connect to people and people to ideas that maybe because they don't have that experience, they now appreciate a different perspective because you've been able to share something that they've never thought of it that way.
Kerri Jeter: 14:52 So there's so many, like to me, it's just fascinating that you can, sell products by telling a story you could share experience by selling a story. Stories are just so powerful.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, they are. And you briefly just said probably even unconsciously, you just said about selling products. And I know a guy who is an incredibly brilliant marketer and he talks a lot about the store telling a story about the products and behind the products that you're selling and the successful companies that do this well are able to tell a story that connects on a personal level with their target market, the people who want to buy these products, and it's so powerful that it actually gets people to open up their wallets and spend the money on whatever these products are.
Scott DeLuzio: 15:50 It's a very powerful thing to do, but on a more personal level where we're talking about sharing stories and when we do this, I know for me, anyways, it's very liberating to be able to just open up and talk about my story. I feel like I am able to get a burden off of my shoulders and just get it out there. And now there might be other people, like, I might tell you my story or somebody else, my story. And maybe there's something that I'm struggling with. And I'm talking to my wife or I'm talking to a friend or something, and then suddenly, they maybe have an idea sparked in their mind and they helped me out with that. So, I don't want to say it's a shared burden, but it's a way of carrying that load without being the only one to shoulder it; in a way for me anyways. I found that to be helpful, downside to that is a lot of times people feel like they don't want to burden other people with their issues, with their struggles or their sob stories.
Scott DeLuzio: 17:08 Sometimes they feel like it is, what would you say to someone like that who doesn't want to be a burden and they clam up because they don't want to burden other people with their issues or their story, or even in a positive way, they just don't want to be bragging or anything like that, if their story is a positive story, or if it's a negative story, they don't want to feel like it's a burden.
Kerri Jeter: 17:35 Well, I've got different things coming to mind when you were speaking of that. So, I feel like it's your responsibility to share and what they do with what they hear is on them. So don't fear by what you have to say by how somebody's reaction. I think that it's not the point of sharing a story, right? It's like, I'm going to share this because I need that back. You need to share this because you need to heal. You need to get it out so that you can grow and change and maybe get advice. The other thing to me also is that if there's something in your heart, that's saying, share this, share this, share this, don't resist. That's your inner most space. And you are being prompted to share that for a reason. So, share it because by sharing whatever it is, you're going through, that person you're sharing with may be in a darker, they just may be further down that hole than you are. And by you answering that call, that's in your heart to talk about your story in that situation, maybe life giving to somebody else.
Scott DeLuzio: 18:55 Yeah, absolutely. I know the person that I was talking about earlier who I've had on the show, who was doing the service missions with this church and things like that, the power of service is incredibly powerful as well. It can bring you up out of these dark places. And if by sharing your story, that's your way of serving others, that could have a dual benefit. You may not even realize it at the time. You might feel ashamed or sad or miserable about sharing the story at first, but when you see the power that it has on other people and how it can help uplift and bring other people up, it might actually bring you up out of your own dark place as well. And so, it's not like a counterbalance, like a weight scale type thing where you have one that drops down and the other one lifts up. And I think it's more of an elevator, a dual elevator where they both go up, potentially when you're sharing those stories.
Kerri Jeter: 20:00 Yeah. So it kind of goes back to that whole question, does my story matter? And if you don't think your story matters, then you probably aren't going to share. But I would answer that question with a bunch of questions. What if you could see that all that you've been through everything you stood up for every time you've fallen and rebounded every curve ball that you've been thrown and caught, right? What if you could see every time you were disappointed and didn't stoop to despair, what if every victory, every chance and appreciate the fact that, you're still here, you're still standing, you're still thriving and you're still striving for that better life. That means your story matters. Like the whole big picture, take that 35,000 foot view of your life. And this one small feeling, or this one, this one moment in time, doesn't define the whole story, but it's a part of the story.
Kerri Jeter: 20:53 So you have to be brave and you have to be bold to be your true self and to authentically connect to whoever it is you're speaking to. I think that's the part too, where a Veteran to Veteran, we appreciate each other just on a deeper level, because we understand what we've been through. And it's almost like we break an initial barrier by just connecting because we're Veterans. So I think that's important. Like find somebody who understands maybe what you've been through to share your story first, write it down. It doesn't even have to be a beautiful memoir, right? Just even if it's not speaking your story, but writing your story down to express it, writing 20 minutes a day, just to get it out of your head and onto something, then you can read it later and realize like, “Oh, there's power in this” and speak it out loud. Even to yourself in the mirror speaking it, there's something very powerful about speaking words and not just writing them, but you've got to start somewhere. And so, if that's in private, in a journal start somewhere because the longer you hold it in the harder it is going to be to share.
Scott DeLuzio: 21:58 Yeah, it will be. I know for myself I started doing this, so my little bit of my story, if you will. I've shared this on the podcast before, but, when I was in Afghanistan in 2010, my brother also was deployed to Afghanistan at the same time. And he, unfortunately, was killed in action. And we were very close. And so that took a tremendous toll on me. And, it was a very difficult time for me, but about a year or so after coming back home I started writing down just notes, just things that I remembered, just journaling, if you want to call it that I was not really writing it down for any particular reason, but I knew I wanted to do something with this information.
Scott DeLuzio: 22:48 At some point. I wasn't in a place that I could do it at that point and so now fast forward, about 10 years later. So, I actually am in the process of writing a book, and it's going to be coming out hopefully soon I'm in the process of looking for a publisher, but it's about my story, my military experience, things that happened after my brother was killed and how I was able to go from the dark place that I was in and the lowest of the lows that I've been in to a point where I'm happy, I'm successful. My family is thriving and life is good, you know? And so, it's a bit of a military history and a bit of a self-help combination type thing. But I feel like sharing that story not only does it help me because it's beneficial to write it out and make my story available to other people, but also to share it and hopefully help other people with other issues that they might be going through, their story's not going to match mine exactly. But
Scott DeLuzio: 24:02 at some point there might be some little crossover there.
Kerri Jeter: 24:06 I think your story, there's a lot of brothers and sisters who'd served, even in my own home, my husband lost a brother also, they're both in Iraq serving, and he lost a brother, but I think by sharing your stories, you're going to help those that are grieving, through this process and maybe be able to pinpoint and identify that it's grief that they're struggling with, or why they're doing whatever they're doing. They haven't really been able to grieve over their loss. And the other thing too, is what I love about, you're probably familiar with Bonnie Carroll from Taps. I love her. And her thing is grief is love, right. But she's all about sharing those stories of the fallen to keep their legacy alive. And so, I think that's just another beautiful way for you to share about your brother and to keep his story going and to love on him too. So, I think that's really beautiful. I'm proud of you for doing that.
Scott DeLuzio: 25:03 Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that. And, with all that said, do you have an event coming up here and I'm not sure exactly on the details of it, but you have an event coming up that is basically encouraging people to share their stories. You want to talk a little bit about that?
Kerri Jeter: 25:21 Yeah, sure. So out of the podcast, I interviewed a fellow Veteran and she has an organization here in Washington state too. And we knew instantly it was like the vinyl alignment. There was going to be something bigger about the two of us meeting. And we are both women who served in both military spouses, and just women, like game changers. I’m not trying to, like, that's not a humble brag, but we're wanting to change the game for women to be able to share their emboldened story and to get it out there. We still see the depravity of women in leadership. We still do the depravity of women on stages. And so, we came together with a great collaboration that's actually, as we are speaking today, everything goes live. So the sales for the event are going live.
Kerri Jeter: 26:09 The website's going live, and we're going to go live on Instagram here later today and talk about it in more depth but basically what it is again, I'm very creative and so I get a lot of things when I go to sleep. I pray, I open my mind and I'm like, “Hey, give it to me. Show me what it is.” And so, we were talking about all the names and so I went to bed that night, thinking about names. And so the name of our event is called Shero talk, and we want it to highlight women who are Shero women who are leading transformations in their industry, making a difference in her community, leading the way in the military, championing change in sports, giving voice to the voiceless pioneering reform in social justice, we wanted to give them an opportunity to share their story.
Kerri Jeter: 26:56 There are women that are in homes who are making a difference to women who are on Capitol Hill making a difference and everyone in between. And there are so many women who are breaking glass ceilings, who are getting a seat at the table and doing all of that. But there's not a whole lot of collaboration. Like you can get it in a religious setting where it's a women's retreat, or you can get it in like a lean in women's only thing, but they're still just putting everyone in one category. Well, we want our event to reach so many more. And so at this event, of course COVID hit. And so, we're no longer able to really do an in person. Our state is very slow to transition back to full normal, which is fine. So, we've pivoted and we're still doing it this year because 2020, it was a hundred years of women being able to fight for the right to vote and all of that stuff.
Kerri Jeter: 27:49 So we want 2020, we felt was a really big year for us. And so, we're going to be doing a virtual live event and I have eight fantastic women. We have three, I think that are military, but it's diverse. So, we have culture representation. We have age, our oldest speaker 77, and our youngest speakers in her late twenties. And so, we have just a wide variety, cross generational women who represent many different things and the theme this year that we're going with is freedom. So, sharing a story about how you have overcome, have you broken the chains, et cetera. And I'm really excited about it. It's going to be not only just an event, that's going to be entertaining, but it's also going to spark conversation and ignite change in our world. And really honestly, with the pandemic, I was reflecting on this yesterday with pandemic, I think it's been such a long time for us to realize how much we need each other in such a way that when you're isolated completely away from everybody else, you realize how you need that connection of community and people.
Kerri Jeter: 28:59 But then on top of it, look at the social injustice that we're seeing. We're at home, we're able to pay attention more. And I'm really actually excited to be able to hopefully, maybe even internationally, because we've got friends who were in the military stationed overseas, who will come to this event and be able to impact and share what collaboration looks like, what inclusion looks like, what equality looks like what a real community of people just loving each other looks like and wanting the best for our world. And so, at a Shero talk, I am hopeful for big things. We've got big visions for it. So I'm really, as you can tell really excited about it. And was this originally planned on
Scott DeLuzio: 29:42 Was this originally planned on being an in-person event or was it always going to be a virtual?
Kerri Jeter: 29:46 It was going to be an in-person event.
Scott DeLuzio: 29:48 Yeah. And the pandemic sort of sidelined those plans. We also had an event because this is a 10-year anniversary for my brother's passing. We were planning on getting just family, friends, things like that. We're going to rent out a banquet hall type thing and just have a kind of celebration type thing. And that we're going to do that around Memorial day. And that just got put off because of travel couldn't happen. And no one wanted to gather in large groups or whatever. So we're putting that off, but it's interesting the changes that come out and the resiliency that people have to be able to accommodate for this type of change, you see it happen in schools where if before this pandemic hit, if you were to just tell teachers, all right, next week, all of your classes have to be online.
Scott DeLuzio: 30:44 and they would just look at you and laugh because that's crazy. Why would they change the way they've been doing things for however many years now? When you throw in a pandemic into the mix, suddenly, they figure things out. And it's great to see how people can come together and work out a problem. And the way you did with your event, you wanted to have it all in person, but life happens here. It is, you're still going to do it. You didn't let it get you down. It was not the way you were probably originally intended, but it's still got, you got, got you the way you wanted it, or got you the end result, what you wanted,
Kerri Jeter: 31:29 And it's hopefully going to still be interactive; it's going to be a live event. Whereas like my cohost and I, Shelly Willis, we'll be live as it's running. We are recording our speeches just because we can't have more than five people together, but you wouldn't know that you really wouldn't know that by watching what we're going to do. So, I have some good forward thinking. I was media, I was public affairs and so how to present a package delivery. So I'm hoping to showcase those kind of skills that I learned in the military by going this route, but even better, if a Shero talk wasn't enough, just like getting a group of women who are very different together to share their story and ignite change, $25 from each ticket that's sold is going back to Final Salute, Inc. who provides safe and suitable housing for homeless, female Veterans and 70% of homeless female Veterans also have kids. So, we're not only helping a woman, but we're helping provide shelter and food for a child too. Every ticket will get $25 towards that.
Scott DeLuzio: 32:42 Oh, that's a great organization to be working with and supporting because there’s certainly more that can be done to help those types of people. So, one last question that I have for you, because we're talking about telling stories and the power of telling stories. So, if you don't mind sharing, what is your story? What's something about you that you want others to be able to take away and learn from maybe your experiences.
Kerri Jeter: 33:15 I think if you were to put just one word on my story, I think it would be resilience. I came from an impoverished family. So I have two sisters, older sisters, and we're very close and that's the only hurt people that I've been able to attach myself to until three years ago, because there was so much trauma and turmoil in my childhood. There was drug abuse or physical abuse. There was neglect. There was a lot of moving to avoid eviction. We moved quite a bit and my mom was a single mom. She had all three of us before she was 18 years old. My mom and my dad were married, but they didn't survive through the three back-to-back-to-back births of their kids and just being young and dumb, I can't really fault them for that.
Kerri Jeter: 34:09 That's a heavy responsibility to be married when you're 14 and 18 years old. But from that, I always just lost myself in stories. I've loved Helen Keller and Harriet Tubman and little women and getting Jane Austin books and just finding extraordinary in my everyday ordinary and knowing I wanted more. And so how can I overcome this? How can I learn from where I'm at right now and be better next time? And so I got involved in sports. I dealt with trauma by just diving in and being well-educated being the best at sports, being the best playing a musical instrument and just striving to not repeat the cycle. But I repeated it, right. I was a statistic too. I became a mom at 15 and a half. I got pregnant even though I was
Kerri Jeter: 35:06 captain of the basketball team, captain of the volleyball team, an honors choir, honor orchestra, straight A student presidential honors, all the things. And I still became a statistic and I did get married, which was kind of funny because my mom literally had to sign a permission slip for me to get married. It was also not like just my high school sweetheart. There's not one person in my high school building that you could say that I had slept with because I didn't, he was seven and a half years older than I was at 15 and a half. So put through the math, it wasn't a healthy situation to be in, but at the time, I didn't know any better. I was looking, I was longing for that love that I didn't have as a child.
Kerri Jeter: 35:53 And so sequentially, I continued the ugly pattern for, I don't know, probably 13 years or so till probably about 28 when I realized, more of my worth as a person and who I was but I did, I've been married multiple times. I had three kids before, so I have five kids now. I've been married multiple times. I left one relationship, one controlling relationship at the age of 20 and got married two months and 22 days of knowing this other guy who ended up being physically abusive alcoholic all kinds of just ugly things. I have a beautiful daughter from that relationship. So, I'm so thankful for her life that she's here in our connection that I have, but it didn't stop there. Like we even recently had to go back to court to protect my daughter because he's never dealt with any of this stuff.
Kerri Jeter: 36:51 And so he's just continued to get worse and worse and worse and do worse things to people. And so, I had to step in and protect her but then I found the Army. So, I knew at 21 years old, I, got a job. I walked in as a civilian in a business suit to a military board because I wanted to be the hero of my own story. I didn't want to be defined by the tragedy that I had already experienced to that point. And so, then I served and I learned a lot. I figured out who I was. I found Jesus in that I found hitting rock bottom, professionally, and personally the same time I commissioned, I finally walked out of that domestic violence relationship. And so, I lost everything.
Kerri Jeter: 37:43 I lost my home. I lost the position I was supposed to get. This was Kerri's plan when she commissioned. And I, they showed up at my OCS graduation saying, do you want to deploy? And you're moving. I had a home. I mean, I moved five times in three years for the Missouri Army National Guard and in the end it was good moves, but it didn't feel that way in the moment and so, I just overcame and I wanted to do more everywhere I've gone, I've always looked to how can I learn from this and grow from this and change from this? And so that's why I went from enlisted to officer because I saw value in growing that. And I knew I had strong leadership skills and qualities in me and then I met who is my now husband in the Army and we got pregnant.
Kerri Jeter: 38:34 and I was like, “I hear you, God, it's my time.” Like I've done so much, I've grown so much. And, you have bigger plans for me. And so then, I got out and now I'm living this life of reciprocity, because that's always a hard word for me to say, of imparting and sharing and giving hope. And I think the thing about my story is, there's so much more detail that I'm just breezing by, but I never lost hope. There were times when the light was barely coming in a pen needle of light, but I always turned my face towards the sun because I knew there was something bigger than me, better than me that I could strive towards and live for. And there were times where just those three little precious lives in that season.
Kerri Jeter: 39:32 being a single mom that they needed me and I didn't want to give up hope because they needed me to. I think just resilience is my story. I think it's really special to look back and see that when I fell flat on my face at that rock bottom point to see that when you were going through that, Kerri, I was there and this is me. This is Jesus, like talking to me. And when you were, when you wrote, went through that time, I was there and I Kerri helped you through that. And you survived that because you had that hope in you and that hope in you was me. And that's just my story. And I love sharing it. I love inspiring other people who are going through hard times because you can be on the other side of it.
Kerri Jeter: 40:21 And I love, I love that. Other sisters come to me now and ask, “I'm in this, how do I get out of that?” And it's funny. One time I had a soldier come ask me, she's like, “I'm in this, I want a divorce. Like how you knew it was right to get divorced?” That's like, look, I don't love divorce. I believe in love. And I believe that people can overcome hard things together. So, I'm not going to say, Oh, he's bad and get divorced. Like you have to answer those questions for yourself, but to be able to really get them to see, is it really that bad or is he just annoying you like, or is there where you are a doormat where he's walking all over you, where you are being controlled or where you are being abused. Those are absolutely no reasons to stay in a relationship. And so, I think through my story, I'm able to help other women navigate those murky waters.
Scott DeLuzio: 41:17 Alright. It's a great story. I'm sure there's more details that you haven't gone into there.
Kerri Jeter: 41:27 Right.
Scott DeLuzio: 41:27 For someone else who might have been in some of the same positions, whether domestic violence or teenage pregnancy or any of the other things that you've gone through seeing where you are now seeing, the happy, healthy home that you're living in and all the things that you're doing for other people, how you're serving other people is inspiring. And I thank you for sharing the little bit of your story there. I think it emphasizes the point that sometimes you must experience the lows to appreciate the highs. I thank you for sharing that and everything that we talked about today, it's really important for people to share their stories, when they're ready for it, and get that information out to other people, because it not only can it heal those other people, but it also can heal yourself. Thank you again for sharing that.
Kerri Jeter: 42:33 Yeah. There was one lesson that I learned early when I became a teen mom that I was born and raised in Idaho. So, I don't want to say small minded, but there was a council, Idaho council had put these ads on that if you become a teen pregnant, if you are a teen pregnancy or become pregnant as a teenager, your life is over. You have these dreams, you want to be a doctor. You want to be a nurse. You want to be an astronaut, a lawyer, doc whatever, guess what you can't do any of that anymore. And as a 16 year old, the lobbying and the state Capitol to say that is absolutely not true. It is a lifestyle change. Absolutely. But you can still aspire and dreams and desires and an education and be able to do both. Your life is not over because you've gone through something hard.
Kerri Jeter: 43:29 You must battle against those people who are the naysayers. And that was something I think even if you could relate that to different pieces of my story, just because something bad happens does not mean it as the end who you are. It is not, it is a semi colon and a part of your story, but it was not the end of your story. And I'm hoping that through all the broad stroke of sharing my story, that's really the lesson in it is that it's never the end, the journey is ongoing.
Scott DeLuzio: 44:04 Yeah. And I've heard the term before, obviously there's post traumatic stress disorder, but there's also post traumatic growth, where you go through a difficult traumatic time or, some other situation and you end up finding out that you grow from it. Yes. It sucks at the time it's hard, it's difficult, but if it was easy, then everyone would do it and everyone would grow from it. You know what I mean? And, then it wouldn't really be all that unique or special and valuable. I would do anything to have my brother back, but some of the lessons that I learned and things like that, I feel like I actually have grown from that experience, out of that trauma that our family went through and I would give it all back to have him back, but I know that that's not possible. So, I might as well get the benefit and see the positive that could come from it and not waste that away, not waste his sacrifice and his memory and everything because I was too stubborn to see the good that could come from it.
Kerri Jeter: 45:22 Hmm. Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: 45:26 Kerri, thank you again for joining us, being on the show, and doing what you do through your podcasts, through events like the the Shero talk event and everything else that you've been doing. And I'm following along on Instagram on what you're doing, because I'm sure there's going to be even more great things in the future. Would you tell people where they can find out more about you, the podcast and anything else that you have going on?
Kerri Jeter: 45:56 Awesome. Yeah, absolutely. I'm on Facebook and Instagram. I'm also on LinkedIn, Kerri Jeter on LinkedIn. So, if you want to connect professionally, go there, but if you want to follow along, what's going on, the places to find me on social media is at Freedom Sister’s Podcast and then I also have a website www.freedomsisters.com, all things Shero talk is sherotalk.com and I'm really excited. We have some really cool things coming up. So come on over, join me in the journey. And if you're a female Veteran, that's my niche. All my guests are women who have served this great country. So, if that's you and you want to come on and share your story, please reach out to me on any of those platforms. And I'd be happy to interview you and share your story with the world.
Scott DeLuzio: 46:45 That's awesome. Yeah. And so, we've had quite a few female guests on the show female Veterans and hopefully some of them are listening and they'll reach out to you and share their stories.
Kerri Jeter: 46:56 Yeah, I hope I just listened to one of your episodes recently, too. About when she got out, she felt all alone. I can't, her name is evading my mind right now, but it was good. It was good.
Scott DeLuzio: 47:08 I think that was Annette Wittenberger.
Kerri Jeter: 47:11 Yes. I was thinking Amy in my head, but yes, Annette, that was such a good episode.
Scott DeLuzio: 47:16 Great. So, alright. Thank you again for joining us.
Kerri Jeter: 47:20 Thanks for having me, Scott. It's been a pleasure.
Scott DeLuzio: 47:29 Thanks for listening
Scott DeLuzio: 47:30 To the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website. DriveOnPodcast.com. We're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at DriveOnPodcast.