RICHMOND, Va. –
Staff Sgt. Shenika Lightfoot joined the Virginia Army National Guard at the end of 2015, about a year after graduating from James Madison University with a degree in cultural anthropology. In joining the National Guard, Lightfoot was looking for an opportunity to serve her community, while also improving herself.
“I wanted to be able to find more discipline and create an undeniable work ethic,” she said. “Choosing the National Guard also offered the ability to represent and serve […] Virginia.”
Lightfoot is assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division as a 27D Paralegal Specialist, a role she chose because it provided an opportunity to advocate for all Soldiers, regardless of their rank. In her civilian job, she works as a government consultant. She’s deployed twice, in 2016 and 2021, and counts the relationships she’s built during her seven years in the Virginia Army National Guard as a highlight.
“The best experience I’ve gained since joining is creating genuine friendships and mentorship relationships,” Lightfoot explained. “The bonds I have created have extended beyond the uniform and I am forever grateful for the lifelong friends and connections [I’ve made].”
With February comes Black History Month. The history and treatment of Black and African American people in the United States is a sad history, Lightfoot said, but the way those people prevailed and continue to prevail is an inspiration to her. As a Black woman living the life she’s created for herself today, Lightfoot says she is her “ancestor’s wildest dreams.”
“I would be remiss if I did not celebrate the life and sacrifices they all made in order to ensure I could chase my dreams,” she said.
Lightfoot said honoring her ancestors and those who fought for equality before her means making sure her voice is heard.
“It sometimes can feel hard to stand in your truth in a room of people who don’t share your upbringing and culture,” she said. “I’ve made it my personal mission to show up completely and totally as a strong, educated Black woman anywhere I go because I deserve a seat at a table just as much as anyone else.”