Growing up in a small town outside Nashville, Andrea Gillotte longed to be like the female anchor on the local TV news: beautiful, poised, and sophisticated—all the qualities she strived for. Gillotte’s home life had been chaotic. Her parents, both drinkers, divorced when she was two. It wasn’t until her grandmother gained custody of Gillotte at 14 that she began to hope she might make something of herself.
After high school and some college, Gillotte joined the Navy in 2003. On her first deployment, she spent seven months on a transport carrying soldiers, tanks, and matériel to Kuwait and Afghanistan. The work shifts were brutal—six hours on, six hours off, week after week. But hard work was something she was used to, so she kept going. And she never lost her dream of going into communications.
When her stint in the Gulf region ended, Gillotte applied to the Defense Information School, where she was trained for jobs related to TV, radio, photography, and the Web. Assigned to Rota Naval base in Spain as an on-air TV reporter, she broadcast Navy news and did local on-site reporting. She loved the work and finished her hitch there. When she got out in February 2009, she sent out scores of résumés and went to job fairs, but nothing turned up, despite her extensive experience. After months of fruitless job searching, she became convinced that many employers harbor an unspoken bias against vets. “People think we’re ticking time bombs,” she says.
Eventually, Gillotte took advantage of the GI Bill to return to Middle Tennessee State University and work on an advanced degree in Strategic Leadership and a graduate certificate in Health Care Communication.
Gillotte supplements the monthly $1,300 that the GI Bill provides by working as a temp in marketing development for Operation Stand Down Nashville, a nonprofit that helps homeless vets. But it is only a six-month gig. When she finishes school later this year, she will begin her search for full-time employment all over again. This time, though, Gillotte believes her goal is within reach. She is like the TV anchor she emulated—attractive, poised, with a wealth of experience. All she needs is a job.