Sabrina Perales -- A Remarkable Woman Serving the Veteran Community

It is not a secret that women are brave, powerful, and unstoppable. Every woman is a true hero -- there’s no doubt about it. The strength that women carry themselves with day in and out is truly remarkable and inspirational.

I was able to sit down and chat with a woman whose story depicts all of the above traits. Sabrina Perales is the Director of Operations at the Pat Tillman Foundation, an organization focused on empowering “remarkable military veterans and spouses as the next generation of public and private sector leaders committed to service beyond self.” The Pat Tillman Foundation, which operates out of 1871 in Merchandise Mart, is an incredible organization that has made a profound impact on many lives in the past 15 years.

As an Air Force veteran herself, Perales said she has experienced challenges around gender norms and stereotypes.

One of the challenges Perales faced was being one of a handful of women to serve the nation as military police. This experience allowed Perales to become confident in what she brings to the table. “In my unit, I was surrounded by alpha males and I had no other choice but to stop being self-conscious all the time and learn their language,” she said. As some may say, Perales had to fake it to make it -- being in a male-dominated environment taught Perales to become less shy and voice her opinions.

During her military career, Perales received several promotions but was confronted with comments from peers such as “You only received the promotion because you are a woman” or “The guy in charge must like you.” This paved a path for Perales to prove others wrong and show that the reason she received such promotions and opportunities was because of her skills rather than her gender. “Gender played no role. I wish others would have rather focused on my abilities,” said Perales.

Killjan Anderson, Executive Director of the Pat Tillman Foundation, has been an ally of Perales and believed in her abilities since her time in the Air Force. Anderson hired Perales during her time of transition out of the military due to medical reasons. Two years after being hired by Anderson, Perales was promoted to a leadership position in the organization. She is one of three women in a group of five leaders. Perales is thankful for the opportunity and is glad to be able to serve other veterans and their families. “It’s empowering to work with other women in a woman-founded organization,” stated Perales.

When asked what advice she has for other women facing gender-based criticism, Perales responded, “Surround yourself with people that can see the good, the bad, and the ugly and provide feedback. Both men and women.” Perales says it is beneficial to receive feedback on all aspects of our lives as a combination to figure out what our strengths and weaknesses are to work on and improve those areas. “Having a mentor is also helpful because it allows an unbiased opinion to come in and tell us what we’re doing right or wrong.”

Lastly, Perales’s biggest piece of advice is to “let it go!” Learning to not take things personally will build character. “Look at who is making negative or unnecessary comments and realize that many times what a person says about you actually says more about them,” said Perales. She believes that having people say rude things is an opportunity for us to prove that we’re able to accomplish the tasks set before us, regardless of our gender.

On behalf of the Holistic team, thank you for your service and all that you continue to do for our veterans.

“We are forever indebted to those who have given their lives that we might be free.”

Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States of America

Elda Baez