SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Veterans Day is a special time to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
Fort Stewart veteran Captain Dominique Dove has served in the United States Army for 14 years.
“I decided to join the Army in 2009,” Dove said. “I joined in order to help me pay for college because I wanted to go to law school and I couldn’t afford paying for college, housing and everything, so I joined for the benefits of going to school.”
As an attorney in the Army, Captain Dove advises commanders on military justice-related issues and tries cases.
“I love being able to interact with commanders, advising the commanders, my paralegals are amazing,” Dove said. “I love my job, in all aspects.”
Some would consider Captain Dove a true success story, especially when they learn that there’s more to her than meets the eye.
She is married to her husband Aaron and together they are parents to their 3-year-old daughter named Ariana.
That’s where a different type of journey for her began, a journey that would impact many American soldiers stationed all over the world, coauthoring the Army Directive 2022-06 (Parenthood, Pregnancy and Postpartum).
The directive is aimed at improving opportunities for U.S. soldiers stationed all over the world to advance their careers while providing the time and flexibility needed to care for growing families.
“I was pregnant, and I was also a commander at the time, and I was doing things to prove like pregnancy is not a disability, I can do this, don’t pick this up for me, don’t open the door for me. I stressed myself out because I was like I’m a leader, I have to get back into shape, I can’t fail this, I can’t fail that,” Dove explained.
She continued: “My whole pregnancy, I only gained like 5 pounds. I ran until the day I had her. I breastfed for a year so I had to go to the field and things like that and then I realized I’m like, I’m setting unrealistic expectations for my soldiers, and I don’t want them to copy what I’m doing and there should be things that help them along this process.”
After meeting with other women who had their own experiences, collectively they made suggestions that became implemented into the new Army Directive.
“One of the policies that I worked on and that meant a lot to me was being able to get paid maternity leave (for military reservists), so now reservists are allowed to have three months of paid maternity leave and then an additional month excused, if they want it off, so they can potentially get four months off.”
Captain Dove also assisted in writing policies that impact soldiers who are single parents or dual military married couples with children who may have normal day-to-day emergencies.
“With COVID, we saw things that didn’t normally happen and because daycares were shutting down, if someone was exposed everything shut down but we’re in the Army and we still have to work and so it was a very difficult time.”
In the past, if there was no family care plan of action for unforeseen day-to-day emergencies, soldiers could face being discharged from the military. However, with updates to the Family Care Plan regulations, commanders are more encouraged to work with soldiers so that they can remain in the military.
Captain Dove said she has gotten positive feedback as the regulation positively affects over 400,000 soldiers who have children.
“Although the Army Directive 22-06 was published once I was already out of my 365 post-partum period, I frequently have the opportunity to educate soldiers and command teams about the new directive due to my MOS,” said SGT Glenda Cordoba. “It always makes me feel good when a soldier stops by the office with questions related to the directive, especially, in situations in which command teams are not very familiar with the directive and need to be educated about it.”
SGT Cordoba continued: “Unfortunately, most of the regulation does not directly apply to me, but it makes me happy to know there is an army directive that protects parents or soon-to-be parents; parenthood can be very difficult in the military, so having the directive can alleviate some of the stress that comes with being a parent and a soldier.”
“The new army directive was one of the best things that could have been done for soldiers of today,” said SGT Alesia Sweeney. “While it is unfortunate that before this directive, soldiers were forced to choose between parenting and family life, and being a soldier, this directive has been a tool that has held command teams accountable and has upheld the standard of a “Family First” Army.”
SGT Sweeney continued, “I have been fortunate enough to experience the good effects of this directive and I’m so happy that all other Soldiers with families do as well. This is the first step to a better Army.”
“My daughter was the motivation for me doing this,” Dove said. “I didn’t fully understand what it’s like to be a mother and a soldier and you don’t want to fail your child, but at the same time, you want to meet your mission, and this makes it easier for you to do both.”
In her combat boots, Captain Dove helps those currently serving in the military in many ways. In her heels, she helped veterans who served but are now homeless by competing in the Ms. Veteran America Pageant where she placed in the top 10.
The Ms. Veteran America competition aims to highlight the strength, courage, and sacrifice of America’s military women. It also serves as a reminder that the women are mothers, daughters, sisters and wives.
Proceeds from the event provide housing for homeless women Veterans and their children.
“It meant a lot to me because during my college, I spent a semester in my car,” Dove said.
Dove believes that her passion stems from the military giving her an opportunity.
“I just want to give back and make a difference, make this organization better. And it is changing, it’s evolving with society, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Most recently Captain Dove has been crowned Dr. Georgia America 2023. Her platform is Veteran Advocacy.
“I will continue to advocate for Veterans and that’s what I’m going to do for the next year while I reign,” Dove said.