A former soldier and Veteran Readiness and Employment Service (VR&E) participant has turned the page, becoming an accomplished children’s book author.
Well before joining VR&E, Winsome Hudson-Bingham grew up in Florida and joined the Army as a unit supply specialist and armorer. She served at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, prior to deploying to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm.
While transitioning out of the service, she embraced VR&E’s mission of assisting Veterans and transitioning service members with service-connected disabilities and barriers to employment prepare for, obtain and maintain suitable employment or live independently. VR&E counselors provided individualized services that helped her – and other participants – to meet their personal employment and educational goals.
Hudson-Bingham’s case was closed in 1998 after she completed training and obtained employment as a special education teacher. She continued to work within the field until 2012, when complications relating to her service-connected conditions forced her to resign.
After gaining assistance and guidance from VA medical staff, Hudson-Bingham reapplied for VR&E services in 2017. After meeting with Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Maria Sanchez at the VBA Hartford regional office, she was found entitled to services and then worked with Sanchez to develop a suitable vocational goal and plan to become a children’s writer.
Writing for her students was her favorite part of being a teacher, so she wanted it to be a part of her future goals. Hudson-Bingham was sent for training under VR&E’s Employment Through Long-Term Services Track to learn more about children’s writing and hone her craft.
While in the program, Hudson-Bingham completed her Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Fall 2021. She quickly got a job in her field as an editor at Reycraft Books. While at Reycraft, her experiences led to the release of her first book, “Soul Food Sunday.” Since its release, the book has received a whirlwind of accolades. It has been positively reviewed by the New York Times and Publishers Weekly, and featured as a top gift for 7-year-old children by The Today Show. FirstBook.org, a non-profit organization, purchased thousands of copies to distribute to children from low-income households. And, she was presented with a Coretta Scott King Book Illustrator Honor Award.
Hudson-Bingham credits some of her success to VA. “The VR&E program helped me find my purpose,” she said. “It accessed my abilities, invested in my training, and provided guidance and support as I transitioned back into the workplace.”
She wants her story to encourage fellow Veterans who are struggling to pursue their goals. “If there is something you always dreamed of doing, this is the time to do it,” she said. “Dreams can come true. You just need to find the right people who believe in you and can dream along with you.”
Her story is just one of many accomplished with the assistance of VR&E and its employees.
The program is a partnership between the Veteran and VA. VR&E will provide a skills assessment, career guidance, job market evaluation, education and/or training for a vocational or professional field that is right for the Veteran. In addition, it can provide an apprenticeship, on-the-job training, volunteer opportunities and financial assistance with employers. Learn more about the program, and apply for VR&E services at www.va.gov/vre.