A program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Kashona Oakman served in the South Carolina Army National Guard for 23 years. The oldest of five children, Oakman was in her second year of college when she made the decision to enlist in the Army National Guard.
Oakman decided to serve after her college roommate enlisted. Two of Oakman’s brothers then followed in her footsteps and joined the U.S. Army. Currently, both brothers are serving on active duty.
Four years later, Oakman earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology. Armed with her college degree, Oakman continued to serve in the National Guard. For 16 years, she was a part of the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 251st Area Support Medical Company. Then after the birth of her daughter, Oakman transferred to the South Carolina Medical Detachment. This detachment provides medical sustainment and treatment for the soldiers of the South Carolina National Guard.
“Throughout my military career, some of my full-time positions included working with Tricare and Deployment Health Programs,” retired Staff Sergeant Oakman told Hiring Our Heroes. She currently works a team leader at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota North America recently presented Oakman with a 2020 Toyota RAV4 as the winner of Toyota’s “Committed to America’s Heroes” sweepstakes. Besides representatives from Toyota and Hiring Our Heroes, Oakman’s former commanding officer and father attended the ceremony at Lugoff Toyota in Camden, South Carolina.
Providing the new vehicle to a deserving veteran was made possible through a long-standing partnership between Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota, explained Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes and vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“This event is one way we thank our veterans and their families for their tremendous sacrifices and it’s a little bit more than saying ‘thank you for your service,’” Eversole said during the ceremony. “In this case, it’s about giving a brand-new vehicle to Staff Sergeant Kashona Oakman as a small token of our appreciation for all that she and her family has done for our country.”
In a surprise announcement during the presentation, Lugoff Toyota also covered the vehicle taxes and fees and donated three years of free car washes to the vehicle winner. “We’re excited to partner with Hiring Our Heroes to honor a local hero,” said Samer Abraham, new car sales manager of Lugoff Toyota.
Since 2011, Toyota North America has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes. A decade ago, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces any time after September 2001 was 12.1%. The jobless rate for all veterans was 8.3%.
Today, the unemployment rate for veterans hovers around 3%. That reduction in the unemployment rate is, in part, due to Toyota’s support.
“Hiring Our Heroes could not have connected more than 700,000 transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses with fulfilling civilian career opportunities in the last decade without partners like Toyota,” Eversole said. “We couldn’t be more thankful for them.”
During the vehicle presentation, Eversole recognized Oakman’s military service.
“I’m really proud of the fact that we’re giving this new RAV4 to a staff sergeant because she represents a population of our military service community that is often overlooked,” he said. “Our National Guard and Reserve community is an integral part of our military community. They serve side by side with our active duty service members.”
Eversole discussed the sacrifices that National Guard members and reservists make for our country.
“Our National Guard members not only have to balance a military career, but they also have to balance families, a civilian job, and many are going to school,” Eversole said. “To be able to recognize Staff Sergeant Oakman on being that silent warrior as she balanced a very demanding military career with a civilian career and a family, we all owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Oakman was honored to receive the Toyota RAV4.
“I would like to thank this great organization, Hiring Our Heroes, for everything that they do for veterans,” she said.
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A Program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation