From Combat Boots to Formal Gowns, Lachrisha Parker’s Service Continues After Retirement.
Fort Wayne, Indiana, native Lachrisha Parker joined the Army Reserves in 1990. After eight years of Reserve service, she joined the Active Guard Reserve (AGR) program, which she insists is one of the best-kept secrets of the Army. Throughout her eight duty stations and 28 years of service, Lachrisha worked as the noncommissioned officer in charge at the company and battalion level, gathering several additional duties along the way.
“I was part of the pilot program for what is now the Army’s retention program,” Lachrisha said. “I also served as the sexual assault response coordinator, battalion EO, and S1 sergeant.”
At her final duty station, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Lachrisha served as the rear detachment sergeant. She was responsible for more than 300,000 soldiers for the Army Reserves and coordinated troops with the regular Army for deployments. She also served as the human resources senior NCO, senior executive administrator, and operation NCO to the deputy chief of staff for the United States Army Reserves.
Photo courtesy of Lachrisha Parker.
She retired as a master sergeant in September of 2018 after 28 years of service and took a year off to adjust to life in the civilian world. During that time, Lachrisha learned about Final Salute Inc.’s Ms. Veteran America pageant, which helps raise awareness and funds to assist female veterans struggling with homelessness. One of her friends encouraged Lachrisha to consider competing, even though she didn’t think a beauty pageant was a good fit for her.
“Sure enough, it was a good fit,” Lachrisha said. “I related to Final Salute’s mission as a former homeless veteran myself.”
Photo courtesy of Ms. Veteran America.
Not only was it a “good fit,” but the competition’s community helped her find her calling. Lachrisha joined the competition in 2019, made the top 25, competed in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Los Angeles, California, and raised more than $7,000 for the homeless veteran community. She earned a top-10 finish, winning the “showstopper award” for the talent lip-sync competition and the “she wears it well award” for best-dressed in the evening-gown competition.
Lachrisha said that, even though it was embarrassing to say that she was homeless, she believed her burdens had never been too heavy to shoulder. Being able to let her light shine on the Ms. Veteran America stage and winning those awards gave her the confidence to step up and share her story.
Photo courtesy of Lachrisha Parker.
In addition to being a spokesperson for the homeless veteran community, Lachrisha joined a former Army co-worker at the Military Women’s Memorial as the community engagement manager. The Women’s Memorial experienced a major rebranding from 2019 to 2021, and Lachrisha became responsible for engaging with countless female veterans and organizations to bring awareness to the memorial and its purpose. She mentioned that many women didn’t even know the memorial existed.
“It’s so important for me to speak with [all of these women] and help them realize that their service made a difference,” Lachrisha said. “I enjoy telling women that they matter. You donned the uniform, and you help so many people sleep safely at night, and that’s something to be proud of. I’m proud of it.”
Lachrisha also sits on the VA’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, touring the facilities and giving feedback on improving the safety of the women who choose to use the VA and ensuring the necessary equipment and services are available. She explained that it’s an honor to be on that committee and make a difference for other female veterans.
Photo courtesy of Excelsior College.
When Lachrisha learned that she was to be the Veteran of the Game for the Washington Football Team/Kansas City Chiefs game, she struggled with being in the spotlight. She said that, because she hadn’t deployed or done some of the things that other spotlight veterans do, she was questioning whether she was worthy of being chosen. But though it can be easy to want to give up, sharing your voice and your story can make a difference for someone else, whether you do so on stage with Ms. Veteran America or on the field at a Washington Football Team game.
“Most of the time, I love being in the back, so seeing all the fans standing, cheering, and saluting — it blew my mind,” Lachrisha said. “My trying to avoid the spotlight, in this instance, was like saying that my service doesn’t count. It’s a truly humbling experience to hear that you matter.”
Photo courtesy of Mike Garcia/Black Rifle Coffee Company.
“Kudos to Black Rifle and Scott for selecting me as the Veteran of the Game,” Lachrisha said. “You all did more than you could ever know in believing that I was worthy enough to stand out there.”
Long-term, Lachrisha plans to start her own mobile business to help female veterans and children gain access to dental care. Many women, particularly female veterans, fall below the poverty line and end up having to pick and choose between medical resources and feeding their families, she explained. She wants to make sure the veteran population is covered and cared for in every aspect of health care and basic living amenities.
“There’s a purpose for everyone’s lives,” Lachrisha said. “It’s so important to be a part of the human race, to give back, and I’m just trying to do my part by providing resources to those who need it most.”