It could be argued that in this world, two types of people exist—those content to wait for the right circumstances to present themselves, and those who remain light on their feet, ready to grasp onto the opportunities that come their way.
Michelle Lavergne is among the latter.
Born and raised in the Philippines, SPC Michelle Lavergne had the world at her fingertips. With a firm and loving mother, a good education, and a penchant for writing, she was nothing short of confident in the choices she’d made for herself in life. As she grew older, Lavergne trusted that mother-daughter bond, and the sturdy ethics of her childhood to see her through.
It was only after relocating from the Philippines to the United States that SPC Lavergne learned just how invaluable that support and upbringing would prove to be. The rigid discipline and unwavering support of her mother and their Filipino culture, combined with the desire to one day be a provider in her own life, would carry from one season of life and into another.
Born to Create
From the time she was a child, SPC Lavergne has always known that she was a writer. Her passion for writing was evident not only at home, where she fashioned her own books and penned fairy tales, but at school, where her talent was acknowledged by her English teachers.
In particular, Lavergne’s fifth grade teacher had begun to notice her talent for composing essays and encouraged her to compete in writing contests in schools throughout the city. Before long, Lavergne’s essays were winning those competitions, further solidifying her passion.
Her teachers further fortified her drive, telling Lavergne and her mother that she had the potential to one day work in journalism.
From there a seed was sown and began to thrive and grow.
“Growing up,” Lavergne said, “all I wanted was to be a journalist, and everything I did in school was to work toward that goal.”
In the beginning, she faced the occasional criticism from family friends who felt journalism would simply lead to a dead end. Meaning well, they spent their time trying to convince Lavergne into pursuing Nursing, instead.
Unwilling to bend to criticism, and with support from her mother—who Lavergne refers to as an Asian Tiger Mom—she chose the degree she wanted for herself and never looked back.
For SPC Lavergne, there was never a question as to whether her mother would be by her side. Whether that meant encouraging her passions or ensuring she was fulfilling her academic duties, to this day Lavergne cites her mother as a source of strength and encouragement in her life.
“She literally bent over backwards just to make sure I finished school and college.” Lavergne said. Describing a culture that emphasizes the well-being of the next generation, she goes on to explain how her mother did not simply encourage her dreams—she funded them.
“She did everything so I could go to one of the best universities in the Philippines. She paid for the tuition herself, and my stay in the dorms.”
Holding tight to her resolve, Lavergne went on to earn her journalism degree, eventually landing a job as an Internal Communications Manager for a major water company in the Philippines while also working as a lifestyle journalist on the side.
Even with a career she found both personally and professionally fulfilling, there came a point where SPC Lavergne knew there were other places she needed to be. With her fiance living overseas in America, she chose to trade her job and lifestyle in order to move closer to the man she loves and would soon marry.
One would imagine that for a woman with so many accomplishments to her name, that it wouldn’t be especially difficult to establish a new career at her new home in Louisiana.
No one was as shocked as SPC Lavergne to learn how little her accomplishments meant when it came to finding a job in the United States. For more than a year, she searched for a job while living in Louisiana, only to come away with options not worth her while, or better opportunities that would take her out of state.
Even when she did scoop up a position, nothing about it came easy. Despite coming in with education, experience and talent on her side, the challenges kept on coming.
“I felt that almost everyone in our office looked down on me and didn’t take me seriously.” SPC Lavergne shares. It was hardly the environment for a woman who knows the value of her work, and who knows the value of her personal worth.
“That’s when I decided to join the military. I really wanted to finally make something of my new life in America.”
A Change of Plans
In basic training, SPC Lavergne found that her greatest challenge wasn’t the volume or the demands of her drill sergeants, but being separated from the support of her husband and family.
“In basic training, all of us were in the same boat: homesick.”
From one day to the next, she was greeted by harrowing depression that persisted until one day she woke up feeling as if she’d had enough.
“I was done letting the depression eat at me and chose to make the most out of every day.” Lavergne said. “The loneliness went away and it made me realize that I was a lot stronger than I thought I was.”
In pulling herself out of that depression, Lavergne found the strength to become a pillar for some of her battle buddies who did not share that ease of transition. Lavergne speaks of how important it was for her to find those friends in basic training—the people she clicked with, who without words could empathize with one another as they were continually pushed to the limit.
“Lending, sharing encouragement amongst yourselves. That’s kind of the only thing that helps keep you going.”
A New Mission
Now more than a year into her military career, SPC Lavergne is a part of the Army Finance Corps. Working for the In-and-Out-Processing Department of the Finance Office at Schofield Barracks, she’s the person you’ll speak to when sorting out finances or preparing to PCS to a new duty station.
While it may be a far cry from journalism, working for the Army Finance Corps falls neatly in line with the supportive values that are close to SPC Lavergne’s heart.
”Our job is vital in the sense that we handle soldier’s pay.” Lavergne explains. “You can’t mess with their pay. When you mess with someone’s finances, they can’t focus on the mission. So you have to take care of that so they don’t have to worry about that, and so they can focus on what’s needed from them, and what they signed up for in the military.”
One of SPC Lavergne’s hopes is that during her time in the Army, that she might be able to assist in creating a more efficient finance system, to better ensure the integrity of soldiers’ pay; a means of making sure a snag in the system doesn’t allow the finance department to fall behind.
“As to what kind of system, I have no clue yet,” she laughs. “But I’m going to try and figure it out!”
As a brand new mother, finance is an issue that resonates deeply for her.
It all comes back to the Filipino heritage SPC Lavergne proudly embraces, that she cites as a driving force in her life even today.
“One of the principles of Filipino parents,” Lavergne explained, “especially when they have a hard life, is to make sure when they have kids, that their kids will have a better life.”
With the birth of her son in December of 2020, that message has become more poignant than ever.
“Everything I’m doing I draw inspiration from my baby. I really want to make sure he has the best life, the best opportunity. When he goes to college I want to make sure that I pay for it, the same way my mom paid for my education.”
Passion, Heritage, and the Next Generation
In a short amount of time, Michelle Lavergne has gone from having never imagined herself a member of the military, to being an inspiring military woman others can look up to.
In many ways, SPC Lavergne’s career in the Army reflects where she was so many years before.
“Whether it was turning my dream of becoming a journalist into reality or joining the military, there were always people who told me I wouldn’t make it.” Lavergne said. “The fact that I made both things happen and proved people who doubted me wrong are what I’m most proud of.”
Throughout it all she’s managed to lift others up, never leaving behind the people around her. SPC Lavergne believes that what it ultimately comes down to is kindness, and especially for women in uniform—having each other’s backs.
“The thing women need to do is be there for each other,” Lavergne said, “and not tear each other down. At the end of the day, you’re all battle buddies. You’re supposed to support each other.”
Just as tradition has been a great influencer in SPC Lavergne’s life, so she wants to assure other young women they don’t need to compromise who they are in order to succeed.
“You don’t have to completely strip away your identity to fit the mold of what the military expects of you as a service member.” Lavergne said.
She iterates this in describing herself as a nerd, a girl’s girl, and an overall multi-faceted woman who appreciates being able to indulge in the sillier things in life, while also being able to trudge her way through the mud.
“You can be both fabulous and badass, and you don’t have to give up one part of yourself just to fit into an older expectation.”
Somewhere in the future, when the day finally arrives that SPC Lavergne finds herself retired from the military, she hopes to return to a career doing what she loves most—writing. While it may be too soon to tell what that writing career looks like, she holds tight to her passion for journalism, travel, and lifestyle writing.
Regardless of how or when, SPC Lavergne is sure to garner the bylines she dreams of. After all, she’s been down unventured roads before. And time and again, she’s demonstrated that she’s got the perseverance and tenacity required to best the task at hand.