Soldier serves community with soup kitchen
Staff Sgt. Terriance Hamilton and his wife Joyce, a retired sergeant first class, wanted to help those in need living near Fort Knox, Kentucky, so this past year they opened the Lord’s Supper Soup Kitchen, a non-profit that provides more than just hot meals.
Before they opened, Hamilton said he and his wife did some recon.
“We went off the highways and down into the trailer courts ... apartments, low-income housing,” Hamilton said. “And we literally saw people eating off cardboard boxes.”
They felt it was their calling to help these residents, and in the past year the kitchen has raised an estimated $40,000 worth of food, clothing and furniture for the less fortunate. There’s also a ministry aspect to their work, but Hamilton stresses that any and all are welcome to break bread.
Hamilton has managed to co-lead the soup kitchen while juggling his active-duty responsibilities.
“I get off work, I take off my uniform, put on a pair of tennis shoes and jeans, and I get real humble,” Hamilton said.
He’s had to defer some of his service work in recent months, however, as he’s presently deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan with 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
Downrange, Hamilton is serving as the contract air cell noncommissioned officer in charge and he’s responsible for assurance inspections of government contractors. Recognized as a talent behind the mic, Hamilton is often tapped for a special duty — serving as emcee for events, such as color-casing ceremonies, at home and abroad.
Hamilton said he and his wife have big plans to create a homeless shelter down the line and also build more soup kitchens, branching out to other states.
“The Army prepared me with patience and fortitude and dignity, respect, integrity, loyalty. The Army gave me all these attributes,” Hamilton said. “I had them, but they made me go deep with them.”
Assignment: Contract Air Cell NCOIC, deployed with 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
Personal: A married 44-year-old with more than 18 years of service. Hails from Ozark, Alabama.
Cancer survivor, coach and leader
In early 2011, then-Staff Sgt. Felicia Gililland was fighting breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. Less than six months later, she was acing her PT test and earning her commission.
Fast forward to today and 1st Lt. Gililland is thriving in her career and still taking time to serve her community.
“Many people think that a major surgery is the end of their career,” Gililland said. “I want people to see that even after something as radical as a double astectomy, that I never let it stop me from being a soldier and continuing my mission.”
On the job, she is executive officer for the 135th Forward Surgical Team in U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea. She is also a first responder for FEMA and Team Rubicon, a non-government organization that specializes in emergency response.
Gililland, who is wrapping up her Korea tour soon, also coaches a cheerleading team called Go Rogue, which is comprised of teenagers and named after the powerful X-men heroine.
“A lot of these kids, I’ve seen grown up,” she said.
This year, Go Rogue raised more than $6,000 for the Yongsan Relay for Life to benefit cancer research.
The lieutenant also operates a cupcake and diaper cake company called Incredible Designs. She donated cupcakes to Seoul American High School’s prom this year and she also donated some sweets for an event at the nearby Philippines embassy.
Gililland said all the hard work is worth it, and it also helps reduce her anxiety. She said she suffers from post-traumatic stress after working at a combat support hospital in a 2003 deployment to Iraq.
“Being selected runner up for the Army Times Soldier of the Year means a lot to me,” she said. “I have worked hard supporting my unit and my local community because it is the right thing to do. I just never expected people to notice.”
Assignment: Executive officer for the 135th Forward Surgical Team at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea. She is days away from reporting to her next role, joining U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Personal: 34 years old and married to retired Master Sgt. Jim Thurman with three children: Brittany (24), James (23) and Dylan (11). Hails from Charleston, West Virginia.