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Courageous ACAP worker defines ‘selfless’

Published: 03:04PM November 20th, 2012
Courageous ACAP worker defines ‘selfless’

Sgt. Jacqueline Fennell

Coral Levang, a Transition Assistance Program facilitator who works for Insignia Federal Group, contracted by the U.S Department of Labor, always makes a point to thank military members for their service, as she does during a recent workshop at the Army Career and Alumni Program center.

Coral Levang was diagnosed in May with a Stage 4 gastrointestinal tumor and Carcinoid Syndrome — an irreversible, terminal cancer.

Doctors told her she likely had a year to live.

“I was told I’m going to die,” Levang said. “I had a sense of urgency to make a difference.”

Levang, a Insignia Federal Group contractor, works as a Transition Assistance Program workshop facilitator at the Army Career and Alumni Program center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Instead of losing her will to self-pity, Levang is driven to make every minute count, finding purpose in encouraging Soldiers and positively affecting their lives, she said, regardless of time she has left.

She dedicates her time to service members separating from the military, offering advice based on her own experiences.

“My purpose in life is to inspire others to see beyond the challenges they face in their lifetime,” Levang said. “You have to be able to think and see beyond that challenge before you can live beyond it.”

Levang was introduced to the trauma of cancer when she was first diagnosed with early stages of breast cancer in 2007. She defeated it through treatment and freely shares her story about it.

Although continuing to work while meeting her medical demands was not easy, she said she chose to let cancer motivate, rather than consume her.

“I had to reexamine my belief system about what was most important about making career and job choices,” Levang said.

Instead, she used her skills, coaching and mentoring others as a Transition Assistance Program trainer. Veterans she counseled said they saw the passion she brought to her work.

“Coral’s energy and enthusiasm about speaking to transitioning and retiring Soldiers and Families is unmatched,” said retired 1st Sgt. Shawn Willis, who separated from the Army last month after his final assignment with 9th Financial Management Company, 593rd Sustainment Brigade. “She renews the spirit in me knowing there are genuine leaders like her that get up every day to put their best step forward regardless of their situation because they serve a higher purpose than themselves without a self-serving agenda.”

Levang establishes connections by sharing her personal story as a military veteran during workshops with service members.

“After serving 15 years, I felt forced to make a decision between a military career — which I loved and always planned to retire from — and my family,” Levang said.

She empathizes with the conflicts they feel when faced with choices they are forced to make at the end of their careers.

“The challenge for many service members is in knowing who they are as an individual without a military identity,” Levang said.

She found one such Sailor at a TAP workshop in Jeremie Gillespie, who was losing his marriage while separating from the Navy.

“I was truly at a dead end and didn’t know what I was going to do even having kids at home that were relying on me,” Gillespie said. “Going home to face my negative thoughts was too much for me to handle.”

In his desperation, Gillespie said Levang communicated to him in a way nobody else could. She helped him with the challenge of losing everything he had worked for throughout his military career.

“She offered life-changing advice that began the healing process in my life,” Gillespie said.

Although Levang faces her own personal challenges, she is still committed to contributing to making a difference in Soldiers’ lives. “I want them to walk out of the workshop believing that they have much more to offer the world than what they thought they did when they first walked in,” Levang said.

On the last day of every TAP workshop, Levang shares her story and recites the oath of enlistment with tears in her eyes. each time ending with “I’d do it all over again if I could.”

Snapping to the position of attention and giving a crisp salute, Levang tells each class, “Thank you for your service.”

“It is not Coral (who) needs to render the first salute; it’s (we who need) to render her the first salute,” Gillespie said.

“Sometimes telling your story can be a healing process,” Levang said with conviction. “I love what I do and will continue to do it for as long as I can.”