Authors and Vets

Authors of Camouflaged Sisters Lila Holley, from left, Shirley LaTour, Luvina Sabree and Tamara Sanford are photographed at the Killeen Daily Herald Friday morning.

A group of local women have joined with others from across the country to share their stories in an upcoming book, “Camouflaged Sisters,” which releases Saturday.

Composed by 14 authors, the stories reflect a broad spectrum of experiences from current active-duty soldiers to retired veterans. Though their stories are unique, the women collaborated with a united goal — to share the perspective of the African American female service member.

“For many years our voice has been silenced, and we need to be heard. We need to be seen. We need to be known,” said one of the authors, Luvina Sabree, a Killeen resident who served four years in the Army and four years in the National Guard.

Sabree is one of six “Camouflaged Sisters” authors who currently live in the Fort Hood area.

The book originally was the vision of lead author Lila Holley, a local Army veteran of 22 years who self-published her first book, “Battle Buddy,” earlier this year.

“I wanted to get other women’s perspectives on the military experience. ... I started asking my circle of sisters, and the right ones just came on board. The book, although it was written by 14 African American women and our experiences, any service member can relate (to it),” Holley said.

The book covers five different topics: leadership, balance, mentorship, faith and transitioning.

Capt. Shirley LaTour, a nurse at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center who helped write the book, joined the Army at 17 years old to escape a turbulent home life and to help fulfill her dream of going to college.

LaTour writes about the difficult years early in her military career, juggling her roles as a soldier and a single parent, as well as her long journey toward becoming a nurse. Her stories are found in the book’s section about faith.

“Although I’ve had many challenges, because I do believe in God, he’s the only reason why I’ve ever made it this far,” LaTour said.

Hope and strength

For other women reading her stories in the book, LaTour said she hopes to convey a message of hope and strength.

“They can go on and they can endure and they do have a voice, and it’s important and they do matter,” she said.

Like LaTour, Copperas Cove resident Tamara Sanford also joined the Army at 17, and quickly found herself on her first duty station in Germany. She describes that first assignment as “culture shock,” compared to her upbringing in Long Island, New York.

From her 10 years of service, Sanford said she learned a lot about the importance of having more experienced soldiers investing in her life and imparting wisdom.

She writes about her first two years in the Army, and the difficulty she had finding someone to mentor her.

“It was important for me to have a mentor, to have someone who knew the ropes of the Army to actually guide me along and help me through the stages of being a soldier, being a young female in the U.S. Army that’s predominantly male. And I didn’t have that,” she said.

The experience of collaborating on a book together has caused a true sisterhood, the authors said. The idea of female soldiers and veterans becoming “sister” is part of what the women hope readers take away from the book.

“I would hope that in the service now, more people would realize that we do need to be sisters and we need to pull each other up by the bootstraps. We all need to be there for each other because the woman’s story is completely different than the male story. It’s about helping each other,” Sanford said.

Signing and celebration

The authors will be in the Special Events Room at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday to meet readers and sign copies of the book, which will be available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and will be available to download as an e-book beginning today. The signing event is part of the 2nd annual Veterans Day Celebration, which this year honors military women in leadership. The event features a dinner, door prizes, celebrity emcee Miguel Nunez Jr. and artist Civon Bell. Tickets to the event are $25. For more information, contact 254-307-9373 or wsnkilleen@gmail.com.

“I want people, when they read the book, to understand that while we have all had success in our own rights, we’ve had to fight hard for that success, and our stories are no different from yours,” Holley said.

Contact JC Jones at jcjones@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7464​

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