A VR&E participant becomes a children’s book author

A former military member and Veteran Readiness and Employment Service (VR&E) participant has turned the corner as an accomplished children’s book author.

Long before joining VR&E, Winsome Hudson-Bingham grew up in Florida and joined the military as a unit supply specialist and gunsmith. She served at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia before being deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm.

During her transition out of service, she embraced VR&E’s mission to help veterans and transitioning service members with service-related disabilities and employment barriers prepare for, obtain, and maintain a suitable employment or independent living. The VR&E counselors provided her with personalized services that helped her and other participants achieve their personal employment and education goals.

Hudson-Bingham’s case was closed in 1998 after she completed her training and got a job as a special education teacher. She continued to work in the field until 2012, when complications with her service-related conditions forced her to resign.

After getting help and guidance from VA medical staff, Hudson-Bingham reapplied for VR&E services in 2017. After meeting with vocational rehabilitation counselor Maria Sanchez at the VBA Hartford regional office, she was judged eligible for services, then worked with Sanchez to develop a professional goal and project to become a children’s writer.

Writing for her students was her favorite part of being a teacher, so she wanted it to be part of her future goals. Hudson-Bingham underwent training under the Job Track through VR&E Long-Term Services to learn about children’s writing and hone his craft.

While on the program, Hudson-Bingham completed her Masters of Fine Arts in Children’s Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the fall of 2021. She soon landed a job in her field as a writer at Reycraft Books. While at Reycraft, her experiences led to the release of her first book, “Soul Food Sunday”. Since its release, the book has received a whirlwind of awards. It has been positively reviewed by The New York Times and Publishers Weekly, and featured as an ideal gift for 7-year-olds by The Today Show. FirstBook.org, a nonprofit organization, has purchased thousands of copies to distribute to children in low-income households. And, she received a Coretta Scott King Book Illustrator Honor Award.

Hudson-Bingham attributes some of its success to VA. “The VR&E program helped me find my purpose,” she says. “He accessed my abilities, invested in my training, and provided guidance and support as I transitioned into work.”

She wants her story to encourage fellow veterans struggling to pursue their goals. “If there’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing, now is the time to do it,” she said. “Dreams can come true. You just need to find the right people who believe in you and can dream with you.

Her story is just one of many accomplished with the help of VR&E and its employees.

The program is a partnership between the veteran and VA. VR&E will provide a skills assessment, career counselling, labor market assessment, education and/or training in a career or vocational field that is suitable for the Veteran. In addition, it can provide apprenticeships, on-the-job training, volunteer opportunities and financial assistance from employers. Learn more about the program and apply for VR&E services at www.va.gov/vre.

Grover Z. Barnes