Sergeant First Class Yolonda Tinsley was used to advising others on life after the uniform. The retired Army human resources professional asked everyone the same question.
“What’s your Plan B?”
But after two decades of service, Tinsley needed to think carefully about her own Plan B. It needed to accommodate a young family that she’d missed time with during service. And it needed to be flexible enough for her to deal with physical and mental challenges, the latter including anxiety attacks dating back to a 2007 deployment in Iraq.
“The trailer right beside mine literally got hit by a rocket,” she recalled. “It was burnt to the ground and two people died right by where I lived.”
“If I was home that day, because it was supposed to be my day off, then I wouldn’t be here either.”
She narrowly escaped death a second time during the same deployment.
“When they picked us up we actually did take fire and there were bullet holes through the floor board of the helicopter that stopped right between my feet.”
Tinsley knew government contracting was lucrative, but out of the question for her. No amount of money was enough to send her back overseas. Armed with a business degree and a thirst for independence she turned to Angel Pops, her Snowie shaved ice business.
“I always promote this to people that I know because a lot of my friends, you know, everybody’s injured and they’re physically not capable to do any hard work,” she said. “So I would tell them pick something that’s easy.”
“I think the hardest thing I have to do is pick up that shaver and it’s a hundred and something pounds, and when I’m not able to do that I make him put it up there,” she laughed pointing to her husband.
With the help of her active duty husband, First Lieutenant Daniel Tinsley, the mother of three has raked in enough money to pursue franchising opportunities. Her newest contract has landed her on Fort Bragg, where we met her serving up cool treats in the South Post Exchange parking lot.
During a time when veterans’ unemployment outpace the national unemployment average, her advice to others moving from “boots to suits” is simple-use your military skills and think outside of the box.
“We can pretty much pick up and go anywhere. You can talk to people. You can do it.”