As a seventeen-year-old student at Lamoille Valley Union High School, Morgan Langlois’ dream was to join the Navy. Her father tried to persuade her to start college. She did, for just one semester, but it didn’t take. She wasn’t interested in college—that would come later. She was interested in the Navy. Morgan was so young, her parents had to sign a waiver to let her go.
Morgan spent nearly nine years as a boatswain’s mate in the US Navy. She completed two tours in the Persian Gulf, for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and she completed the first half of a third tour. She was responsible for operating and maintaining the largest crafts the Navy employs. Morgan later joined Fleet Forces Command, where she was hand-selected to drive an admiral’s yacht. In 2009, she decided it was time to return home to Vermont.
Morgan is a woman with a clear seriousness of purpose. Sitting across a table in her office at the Vermont National Guard in Morrisville, she emanates a determined energy. “I want to work with veterans and their families,” she says. “I want to be a good advocate for them.” As she begins to describe her own experience, it’s obvious that she has good reason to want to do this work.
When Morgan left the military and began a transition back to civilian life, she was shocked. “I thought it would be this great thing, that I had all of this experience and all of this knowledge. I thought I was a shoo-in, that I would get a job.” Instead, she discovered an incredible struggle.
“It was a really big challenge. And it was really frustrating, because I thought, how can a veteran, who has spent so much time in the service and has all this experience, not be employed?” Her struggle—not just to find work, but the entire process of reintegration—is what inspired Morgan to want to help other veterans.
She began that journey at the Community College of Vermont. Discouraged by her job search, she was directed to CCV by a friend, and decided to begin work toward a degree in human services. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said of starting out. “But then the more human services I took the more I realized how I could tailor what I was learning to be military specific.” Everything was about the military, she says—every paper, every project. She wanted to know how she could contribute to changing the system for the better. “The military really is a culture, and it’s completely different,” she said. “It is not understood by the greater society. I want to bridge that gap, that’s what I want to do.”
After earning her associate degree at CCV, Morgan went on to complete a bachelor’s in social work from the University of Vermont. While working toward that degree, she was hired as one of two Veteran and Military Resource Advisors (VMRAs) at CCV. VMRAs are central to the College’s broader initiative to offer specialized support for veteran and military students. In this position, Morgan launched her career in outreach and veterans services.
Today, Morgan is an outreach specialist for Vermont Veterans Outreach. Her work is multidimensional and her responsibilities are many; she does everything from educating the community to helping veterans understand their benefits to simply listening. She said it helps that as a vet herself, she’s been there too. “Veterans want to talk to other veterans, people who have been there and done that, and who can empathize with them,” she said. She wants to be a resource for others who are making, and have made, that most difficult transition into life after military service.
Morgan plans to continue her education and eventually complete a master’s degree in social work. “I’m not done,” she said with a smile. “I’m going to finish it.” She plans to continue helping others in whatever ways she can. It seems that there’s very little that could stand in her way of supporting and strengthening her community—indeed, she already has.
“I usually tell people my story and that kind of puts it in perspective for them,” she said of the veterans she’s working with today. “That kind of humanizes it, you know. The struggles that they’re having aren’t abnormal. It’s a very common thing, and I’m here to help them get through it.”