Woman Warrior Lifts Others, Writes Her Own Living Transformation Daily
By Jennifer Silva
Chief Program Officer, Wounded Warrior Project
Marine veteran Taniki Richard is empowering others through her own transformation. Taniki and her husband Brandon, an active duty Marine, are battle buddies on a mission to help other veterans. Taniki and Brandon both served in Iraq and, in 2015, founded JT Inspire to bring hope to people coping with military sexual trauma and combat stress.
Far from slowing down during retirement, Taniki keeps busy with family, a radio show, a Roku TV™ media series, public speaking, school mentoring, training young adults, and veteran advocacy through Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
As she works to lift others every day, she remembers when she needed lifting up. There was a time, while stationed in North Carolina after returning from Iraq, when Taniki felt so hopeless that she purposefully crashed her car into a light pole.
“I didn’t want to die,” Taniki recalls. “I really wanted to live. That’s why I was so sad. I wanted help, but no one seemed to want to help me. I made a decision after I crashed to get help, and I think that’s the first time I was ever a true leader.”
Despite getting some help to learn to manage post-traumatic stress and sexual trauma, Taniki still felt alone and isolated – until she attended a WWP event that changed her life.
When she arrived, a WWP staff member looked at her in a way that showed love and acceptance. That look was all it took for Taniki to open up. “I cried, because I knew that love,” says Taniki. “You didn’t have to say much; you just knew. You could express yourself and people just understood.”
While at WWP’s Project Odyssey®, a multi-day mental health workshop, she explained to the group that she missed being a sergeant in the Marine Corps, and others in the group shared similar feelings. “No one judged me,” says Taniki. “They validated me. It was empowering, and it was a real turning point for me.”
Since that time, Taniki has been empowered to help inspire people to live better lives.
“I want to make sure my fellow veterans have everything they need to play out the next part of their lives and not just live, but live well,” Taniki says. “If I can help people heal and find peace, then the end of my service is not the end. I’m just serving in a new way now.”
Serving in a New Way
The sound booth at WREJ Rejoice 101.3 FM (990 AM) in Richmond, Virginia, provided a new way for Taniki to repurpose her passion for serving others. “I want people to know they can deal with trauma and still pursue their dreams,” she says.
“Through a radio show, I was able to give other people opportunities to heal and advance just like I received when I started my recovery journey.”
The radio show (pursUance: Straight Out The Box!) became a powerful tool to connect veterans to each other and help them realize avenues to translate their military skills into life skills and entrepreneurship.
“Professionals from all walks of life came together,” Taniki says. “Many of us realized that we’ve had some hard times, but we’ve also had great success.”
During this time of growth and connections, Taniki completed her education through earning a bachelor’s degree in professional studies from Regent University. Still, the school of life proved to be a higher calling for this tireless warrior.
A Work in Progress
Taniki began meditating. She also challenged herself to socialize more. People often asked her how she was able to transform herself and do so much great work. She wanted to provide a way for others to have something at their fingertips that gave them some answers. A book began to write itself in her mind.
Her way of overcoming trauma, listening to herself, and trusting herself became a clear path she could put down on paper to help others through their own difficult journeys. “I know it can be overwhelming, and I know you need to build a support system.”
Taniki approaches this project with eyes wide open, having lived the hard work of unloading trauma.“It’s not just about doing these three things,” Taniki says. “There is a better way to live, and you have to change what you’re doing, reach into yourself, and introspectively assess the toll that trauma has taken on you.”
The upcoming “Principles For Change” will describe Taniki’s personal journey and inspire others to overcome trauma. The book represents the latest reinvention of Taniki.
“Trauma has a way of coming back, so you practice transformation every day,” Taniki reflects. “I want to live what I’m writing by practicing its principles in my own life.”
Woman-to-Woman Peer Support
WWP creates opportunities for veterans to gather in a safe and open environment. Female-only peer support groups are popping up in cities where WWP serves large numbers of female veterans.
“We are responding to the needs and want to help female veterans feel as welcomed as possible,” says Krystle Matthews, Army veteran and WWP peer support group leader in Houston. In addition to her volunteer work with WWP, Krystle works for the Texas Veterans Commission, is a doctoral candidate at University of Houston, is a wife and caregiver to another veteran, and is a mother.
“Many of the women in all-inclusive peer support groups had experienced military sexual trauma,” Krystle observes. “In a female-only group, women feel comfortable and are able to share without feeling judged. Wounded Warrior Project has created an environment where warriors can come when they are ready.”
Individual Attention Through Classes and Wellness Coaching
WWP offers empowering physical activities such as boxing workouts (pictured), yoga, and nutrition classes. A transformative wellness program engages warriors in a three-day health clinic immediately followed by three months of one-on-one wellness coaching.
“The combination of clinic and coaching helps motivate you to get back to the lifestyle you might have had in the military,” says Air Force veteran Janneil Knox, who lives in Seattle with her four children and works as a special education teacher. “It helps you get back on track.”
Janneil attended a WWP health clinic where she met fellow warrior Melissa, who has become her fitness battle buddy. “We live in Olympia and Seattle, Washington, so we do a lot of stuff together,” Janneil says. “It’s good to meet other warriors who have some of my same issues.”
WWP’s wellness coaching program is open to any warrior who wants to improve her quality of life, fitness level, mood, body composition, or general well-being. View this video for details: https://wwp.news/CoachingVideo.
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers – helping them achieve their highest ambition. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), top rated by Charity Navigator, and holding a GuideStar Platinum rating. To get involved and learn how WWP connects, serves, and empowers, visit http://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org/about-us.
About the Author
As Chief Program Officer, Jennifer oversees strategy and innovation as it relates to current and future WWP programs. She leads the organization in creating cutting-edge programs that assist warriors as they transition to civilian life. Jennifer is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the Army as a logistics officer. Before coming to WWP, Jennifer worked in the financial field, owned her own business, and was a secondary school educator.