Shanda Taylor Boyd grew up in Coatesville, PA with her mom and four sisters. During ninth grade Shanda became a member of the Coatesville Area Sr. High School PA 771st Jr. Air Force ROTC Program and served as the unit’s Squadron Commander in 12th grade.
Having found her inspiration from Jr. ROTC and her Uncle Robert , a Vietnam Veteran, Shanda enlisted in the U. S. Army Reserves Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) in January of 1982 so she could serve her country and begin attending college.
By the time Shanda was commissioned into the Regular Army and entered active duty as second lieutenant in 1985, she had already completed Basic Training at Fort Jackson, S.C. and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. Prior to commissioning Shanda had earned an Army ROTC Scholarship, the American Legion Academic Excellence Award, completed Airborne School, achieved recognition as a Distinguished Military Graduate and Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities.
Shanda sang with the Angels of Harmony during her four years at Eastern University, a private Christian college while cross-enrolled as a cadet at VFMAC. She also joined the cross-country team and honor society clubs for her psychology major and Spanish minor.
Shanda Taylor Boyd is the first female in the history of the then all-male Valley Forge Military Academy and College to to attend the Army ROTC Early Commissioning Program. VFMC officially enrolled its first full time female cadet 21 years later in 2006.
During the span of her 23 year military career (active and reserve) Shanda served as a Personnel Administration Specialist, Military Police Officer and Army Nurse. She in 1991, as the Battalion Adjutant for a Personnel unit, she conducted Desert Storm and Shield predeployment operations. She was still attending nursing school at the time and still in the Military Police Corps.
After resigning as an MP and taking the Oath of Office serve in the Army Nurse Corps, her hospital unit in Germany was activated to conduct medical predeployment operations for troops heading out in support of Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Shanda was medically retired in 2006, two years after sustaining life changing injuries. She has used the strength that she’s gained in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to empower her fellow injured and ill warrior sisters and brothers. She travels throughout the nation in hopes of inspiring these brave men, women and their families.
College was not on Shanda’s radar, but there were people that believed in her at VFMAC the day she stood before the ROTC Scholarship Board. If it was possible for her to graduate from Eastern University ’85 Cum Laude (B.A. Psychology, University Of Washington School of Nursing ’94 Magna Cum Laude BSN, and University of Oklahoma Overseas Program ‘2003 Summa Cum Laude earning a Masters in Human Relations, she has faith that you can achieve far greater accomplishments.
She believes that one of the most significant honors of her military career began as the first female and African-American to attend the then all-male Valley Forge Military Academy and College ROTC ECP in 1983. The skills, education and leadership training prepared her to face challenges that no one is prepared to encounter. As a survivor of traumatic brain injury, she’s extremely grateful for the solid foundation VFMAC provided for her more than three decades ago.
She also credits the Department of Veterans Affairs Department of Research and Development with contributing to her post TBI journey of determination. Shanda has participated in the VA evidence based Taking Charge women’s program at the Seattle VA Womens’ Trauma and Recovery with which she credits having changed her life. As a way of giving back, Shanda served as the veteran TBI panelist at the 2011 National Veterans Research Week Forum. In 2017 Shanda received the opportunity to share at the Cavendish Global Health Impact Forum.
Shanda’s three adult daughters are her personal heroes. They were her “Hidden Heroes” (caregivers) during her five years of the undiagnosed injury). She hopes you’ll have the opportunity to read her story in the book “Vets and Pets: Wounded Warriors and the Animals that Help Them Heal” where she and her service dog Timber are featured in Chapter four “The Army Nurse”.
These days you’ll find Shanda serving in one of her several capacities as a Department of Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program (MVP) Ambassador, Camp4Heroes, Ambassador, Northwest Battle Buddies Ambassador (service dogs), Villagers For Veterans Ambassador. She’s a Disabled American Veterans Life Member and served as a Brand Ambassador in the PSA featuring actor Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump) for DAV’s Community of Heroes Campaign. She’s also a proud member of the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization, Sigma Theta Tau (International Professional Nurses Honor Society) and a lifetime member of the University of Washington Alumni Association.
Her faith and relationship with God, which began as a child exemplified by her grandmother, is what helps her get back up and recover from life’s bumps, bangs and bruises. Shanda pays it forward by serving as a Greeter at Sunday service, participating as a team member on missions trips (most recently on teams to Haiti a few years ago and Puerto Rico April 2018) and local events and activities.
Shanda welcomes opportunities to impart empowerment, encouragement and enthusiasm and is a huge advocate for caregivers (“Hidden Heroes” like her three daughters who cared for her), women warriors and survivors MST and DV because one never knows whose life will be saved in the battle to conquer suicide among veterans, service members and first responders.
“Life is 10% what happens to us an 90% how we respond.” – Author unknown