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Stand-To Scholar Series: A Military Spouse with the Courage to Take Risks

November 12, 2019 by Major Amy Bernard, USMC (Ret.)
This piece is part of an ongoing series to highlight Scholars of the 2019 Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program who represent the diversity of those included in the cohort, as well as the diversity of work that is represented throughout the program and within the veteran space.

Sara McNamara, MSOD

Sara McNamara knew her work helping veterans transition was essential the day she heard a group of Marines talk about their fear of transition. One Marine said, “I’m more afraid of transition than the day I rode away on the bus headed to boot camp.” He is not alone, but he is one of the few with the courage to express those fears.

McNamara is a military spouse, a mother, and a successful business and marketing professional. She is passionate about the effective transition and reintegration of service members into society. Her recent work includes several consulting projects with veteran service organizations, designing a new military transition assistance workshop, and volunteering as a mentor.

Early in 2019 McNamara viewed a post on LinkedIn from a friend and previous scholar about the George W. Bush Institute Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program—programming that hones leadership skills, enhances networks, and advances individual projects to better serve our Nation’s veterans. McNamara had recently completed a two-year graduate program in organization development at Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School, which included six two-week international sessions. She was intrigued by the Stand-To Veteran Leadership program, but apprehensive to apply as she was unsure if she was able to make the time commitment.  

Despite her hesitations, McNamara applied and was accepted. She was confident the program would help her build a career around the intersection of military transition and organizational development. Much to her kids’ chagrin, she packed her bags and left town once a month for five months to attend the modules held in Dallas, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. 

The Stand-To Veteran Leadership program inspired McNamara to think bigger, make a difference, and change lives. She took a giant leap of faith and put together and facilitated a transition assistance workshop series. The curriculum model was designed around personal discovery, mindset, cultural awareness, and experiential learning. The five modules were titled, Examine and Entrust; Explore, Reflect, and Imagine; Educate and Simulate; Experience through Immersion; and End, Honor, and Act. 

Along with honing her skills, McNamara felt that working among like-minded peers for five months better informed her work in transition and validated her own narrative. Through this journey and network, McNamara’s passion and drive was reignited, leading to a meaningful full-time employment opportunity. A Stand-To Veteran Leadership program alumna invited McNamara to join The COMMIT Foundation to continue her work on veteran transition.

Her values, passion, narratives, and strengths align with those of COMMIT’s, and by combining resources rather than reinventing the wheel, the veteran community only benefits. Along with veteran transition, she is also working to expand COMMIT’s corporate education initiative and content strategy.  

On the final day of the Stand-To Veteran Leadership program, McNamara and other non-veteran scholars were invited to the front of the room and recognized for their contributions and efforts within the veteran space. The peer recognition was powerfully emotional, especially knowing the people applauding her were veterans. It was a moment in time that will continue to greatly inspire her work.

McNamara recently said, “I know I’m here because of my relationships, my courage to take risks, and because I moved toward a goal that I could feel and not see.”


Author

Major Amy Bernard, USMC (Ret.)
Major Amy Bernard, USMC (Ret.)

Major Amy Bernard serves as the Senior Program Manager for Veteran Economic Opportunity as part of the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute.  She manages strategic efforts to promote the partnerships, collaboration, and alignment among organizations that focus on meaningful employment, educational and career pathways that are crucial to the economic success of post-9/11 Veterans.

Major Bernard retired from the United States Marine Corps where she served as a Logistics Officer domestically and globally in a myriad of Command and Staff positions.  She last served as the Executive Officer of a Battalion at Camp Pendleton, California.  She deployed in 2005 and 2007 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and most recently in 2017 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.  She was selected to represent the United States Marine Corps as the first female Officer to attend Command & Staff College in New Zealand, earning a Master of Arts degree in International Security from Massey University.

Amy Bernard is originally from Irving, Texas and completed her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University.  In 2019, she completed a second Master of Arts degree from Concordia University. 

Full Bio