Updated: Jul 5, 2020
I got promoted, but He gets the praise.
So this happened about 6 weeks ago….
Mary: “We just got off the phone…you didn’t tell me I should be congratulating you!”
Me: “What do you mean…I’m lost…”
Mary: “Girl, you made the promotion list.”
Me: “(LOL) Stop playing...what promotion list?”
Mary: “(LOL) THEE promotion list, how do you not know this!!”
Me: “Wait really?...!”
We say in the Army you are promoted based on your potential. Today I am here to say God promotes based on His PURPOSE. Effective 30 June 2020, I am a Lieutenant Colonel.
In the 24 hours since I found out, I spent a couple hours gardening. I needed to reflect, I needed to remember the importance of the good ground that produces the beautiful fruit of labor. It is the sunlight and the rain that must be a part of the growth process, not just the work we do in planting the seeds.
Thank you, God, for continuing to show me that growth cannot happen without the grief and without the gratitude. After being blessed with my 2020 quarantine birthday, I committed to witnessing more. This promotion is an opportunity to do that and I will not let Him down.
To you - my community of family, friends, classmates, mentors, mentees, supporters, and everything in between - I say GOD promoted me and I will continue to serve for His glory. Since R-day almost exactly 20 years ago, I have accepted every challenge with my boots in one hand and my Bible in the other, knowing that I could not do it alone. HE WAS THERE. Then after 13 years, I stepped away from the path that I was on, believing through faith, He would still cover me. HE STILL IS. Now, I am writing this - being more public and vulnerable than I normally am – trusting that my testimony will give readers insight into His grace and just a little more trust in Him. I KNOW IT WILL. I may not know what lies ahead, but I thank Him in advance for the journey. I will be the change I want to see in the Army, for the field of psychology, and for my daughter.
The scripture that is engraved in my class ring is Acts 20:24: “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” His grace is amazing, y’all, just reach out for it and He will do the rest.
LTC Bridgette R. Bell
P.S. Thank you, Mary, for keeping me up on what's going on in my life :)
The following is living documentation of my gratitude. As Mr. Rogers said, I am taking “60 seconds to think about all the people who loved me into being.” You are those people. I will continue to add to it as the days pass – it is important to me that you all know how much you mean at this important milestone in my life.
To my August, Being promoted to “Mommy” almost two years ago was really the only promotion that mattered. But having you here for this one has been purely blissful. You are smiling over something you will not understand for years, but I feel like you kinda know what’s going on ;)
To my parents, your love (and money, and encouragement, and discipline, and food, and all the things…) are the reason I am who I am. I want to make you proud, but more importantly, YOU make ME proud.
To my sister, Alesha, you are the reason I continue to be. Thank you for being my BEST FRIEND and confidant. I am always moved by your strength and I am convinced you may be the older one of the two of us :) I love you so much.
To my grandparents, Hazel Lee Bell/Henry Leonard Bell, Sr./Melvin O'Neal Harris/Mennie Mae Harris - I am your legacy. There are not enough words to say what that means or what it feels like to know you paved the way. Blessings extend generations; I will always remember that.
To my aunts, uncles, and cousins – I have always been lifted by the bonds we share, the family gatherings, the celebrations, and the tears we shed together. Especially in the years between this promotion and the last, you have been along for the ride. To my great-uncle Matthew Dawson, I may never have met you but you are in my heart.
To Greg, We joke about whom August’s personality is more like, who she looks more like, and what she will become. Your partnership on this journey could not have been better scripted if I had written it myself. When I think of what Beat Navy means beyond the game, I see your face. I am so glad August and I can let our guards down with you. Thank you for your love and support and setting such an example for us.
To my girls – you all have been there from day one. Jessica since Germany, Kristin since high school, Mary since West Point, Elise and Phalen since BOLC, Malikah and Kathryn since El Paso, Ireka since Ft Knox, Jaedyn since starting our PhD. Any friendship that does not make you better is a waste of time. You make time stand still whenever we talk/text/email/facetime/zoom and that is invaluable. Love y'all!
To my tribe – Elise, Thaina, V, Linda, Tia, Renarda, Jamar, John, Luis, Chevy, Ashlie, Lexi, Brian, Jacquie, and ALL my West Point 2004 classmates – I love being a part of this group. There's too many of you to list, so just know that if I have talked to you since graduation you matter LOL. Also, shout out to Mike for the timely interview recently…it was refreshing. To those we lost prematurely, not a day goes by that I don't appreciate your sacrifice. For Country and Corps!
To my doctoral mentors – Dr. Cruell, Dr. Williams, Dr. Kearns-Cooper, Dr. Schweitzer, Dr. K., Mrs. Moses, Mrs. Green, Mrs. January, Dr. Shear, Dr. Hudson, Dr. Pate, MaryAlyce, Dr. Ender, Coach Linda, Rev. Gaines, and Dr. Parker – I learn so much from every single interaction.
To my Sorors – Kim, Mary, Tracy, Rena, Tracey, and all of you before and after. You are my heart and so much fun to know. Janaia and Tereh – you were my first personal exposure to AKA outside of family and I credit your example. Jayna and EJ – it was not long ago we were sitting around the kitchen table and you were pouring into me - you have consistently done that and I thank you. Quynda, Shani, and Travene, you step in right when I don't even know I need you. Toshia, MJ, Joz, Ashley, Missy, …every conversation with you motivates me for the future of our Army and our sorority.
To my Spiritual Fathers, Mr. Rickey, Chappie, MSG Fauntleroy, Pastor Fisher, and Rev. Gaines - to God be the glory! Your prayers and counsel were always on time.
To my AG Mentors, General Mustion, Colonel Davis, Lieutenant Colonel Minus - I was paying attention! Thank you for your mentorship and leadership along the way and the willingness to answer alllll of my questions, thoughts, and pontifications.
To the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership at West Point - my time teaching amongst you (those past and present) was my first field grade experience and stays with me to this day. General Banks, Colonel Ness, Colonel Woodruff, 'Fab Five," LTC Clark, Charlie, Krista, Bess, Lissa, Rodney, Jess, Steve, Jacquie, Mike, the list of names goes on. Working with and learning from Cadets prepared me for my follow-on assignment at Jackson State AND makes me continue to contemplate how to shape my future. To the collective group of my students, Cadet Gospel Choir cohorts, volleyball players, Excel Scholars, and those who just dropped by my office from time to time - thank you for making me better.
To the Trailblazers, Mrs. Pat Locke and LTG(R) Nadja West - thank you for finding the time to provide direct mentorship even with all you were already doing.
To my (unpaid) Professional Coaches - David, you never let me forget the civ-mil bridge that I must understand and navigate to be successful as a senior leader...keep the lessons coming. Gaylord, you wrote my first grad school recommendation letter and kept encouraging me when the plan changed a million times. Top, you were the first person to tell me I should be a counselor and the first person to visit my baby in the hospital. Leadership wears many hats - you amplify the phrase Soldier's Soldier and I will always trust your counsel.
To Do More Together - let's keep doing more! Mary and Jamal, we have come a long way. Henry O. Flipper paved the way and we must continue to pay it forward. This promotion is also a reflection of that and I am proud to represent our collective stories. There is still a lot of work to do!
To the Pat Tillman Foundation and my fellow scholars - this community has given me access to and mentorship from some amazing opportunities. Without the support, this process would be so much harder and MUCH less enjoyable.
To Jackson State University's former Army ROTC Team - thank you for pushing me as an XO. LTC Brookins, you supported me from day one and I will always be grateful. Ms. Jacobs, Ms. Morrison, Mr. Hall - I would not have kept the boat going without you. I heard everything you said, I promise ;)
To A Door To Hope and Callebasse, Haiti - you and the amazing groups of Cadets I traveled on these missions with have a special place in my story of ministry, mindset, and leader development.
"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant." - Max Depree