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Veteran puts ‘service before self’ attitude to work

As a self-proclaimed “military brat” who later served in the Air Force and married a serviceman, Heather Simmons’ lifetime of military experiences shaped her perspective in unimaginable ways.

Simmons says those experiences gave her the ability to “see the big picture.” As a systems engineer in the information services department at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, that ability helps her understand how her job fits into serving the company’s members.

From military brat to active duty to military spouse

“I’ve had the whole experience,” says Simmons as she describes being a “military brat” as a kid, then on active duty in the U.S. Air Force as an adult and finally as a military spouse after transitioning to civilian life.

“Each role played its own part in helping me prepare for the future,” Simmons says.

Simmons saw her parents struggle through her father’s active duty in the U.S. Marines, which helped her understand the demands of active duty, especially during times of war.

“Getting to see my dad after my parents split was challenging, since he traveled so much,” says Simmons. “But getting him back [from Vietnam] — not once, but twice — made me realize how lucky I was, because there were so many lives lost.”

Simmons’ own active duty was spent as a communications computer operator in the Air Force’s Space Command Unit.

“My team tracked man-made objects in space,” she says. “Anything that could potentially damage our assets was monitored heavily.”

Simmons feels the “service before self” mentality she gained was the greatest takeaway from her time in the Air Force.

“There’s a mutual understanding — a comradery — when you understand the mission and know everyone’s job plays an important role in achieving that mission.”

A shared mission helps get the job done

During her tenure at BlueCross, Simmons has seen this shared mentality across the company. “You can tell employees believe in our mission to provide peace of mind to our members,” she explains. “And many [BlueCross employees] are willing to go above and beyond to get the job done. That’s when I’m reminded about my time in the military the most.”

Simmons is part of the Veterans Employee Resource Group at BlueCross. These company-sponsored “ERGs” bring together employees who share a common interest; in this case, the military. The Veterans ERG also sponsors the company’s annual Veterans Day event.

“This group isn’t just for employees who are veterans,” explains Simmons. “We have many employees with spouses or children in the military who want to know what to expect. This group can help.”

Simmons confesses the hardest role for her was being a military spouse. Yet she felt it was the role she was most prepared for.

“Drawing from my experience on active duty — and as a kid growing up in a military family —helped get me through it, but few people have that luxury,” she explains.

“I hope sharing my perspective with other employees can offer the same peace of mind they’re giving to our members every day.”


About Ali Whittier, CHES®, Senior Communications Specialist

A photo of the authorAli joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2014 and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC). A native of Iowa, she has more than a decade of experience in health promotion and community engagement, as well as health care communications.

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