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Air Force vet brings dream to life: Mission accomplished

LaShanda Jones, holds a copy of her first published childrens' book, "Kele Vorel and Courtney Queen" on May 19, 2014, in front of the Joint Base Andrews, Md.,459th Air Refueling Wing playground. Jones, a retired Air Force veteran, is the chief of finance at the wing. (U.S. Air Force photo / Amber J. Russell)

LaShanda Jones, holds a copy of her first published childrens' book, "Kele Vorel and Courtney Queen" on May 19, 2014, in front of the Joint Base Andrews, Md.,459th Air Refueling Wing playground. Jones, a retired Air Force veteran, is the chief of finance at the wing. (U.S. Air Force photo / Amber J. Russell)

Lashanda Jones, Joint Base Andrews, Md., 459th Air Refueling Wing chief of finance, published her first book, “Kele Vorel and Courtney Queen,” in April 2014. The youth-based book is the first in a seven-part series, titled, “Kele Vorel and friends of God.” (courtesy photo)

Lashanda Jones, Joint Base Andrews, Md., 459th Air Refueling Wing chief of finance, published her first book, “Kele Vorel and Courtney Queen,” in April 2014. The youth-based book is the first in a seven-part series, titled, “Kele Vorel and friends of God.” (courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Raised in an era where many people believed children should be seen and not heard, LaShanda Jones, 459th Air Refueling Wing chief of finance, said she harnessed her talent for writing as a means for self-expression.

"I was a quiet child, and I started writing when I was a teenager," Jones said. "I wrote a lot of poetry and songs to express myself."

As an adult, her passion and talent for writing smoldered beneath her drive to succeed in the United States Air Force. The single parent with a plan for the future became a commissioned officer in 1997 and served for eight years active-duty and four years in the Reserve.

"I started writing stories when I was organizing morale events as a lieutenant," Jones said. "I would create silly stories to get unit members chattering back and forth and make them want to compete with different units and teams. People would tell me then, 'you're a good storyteller; you should write a book.'"

Jones said she conquered her insecurities and accepted writing as her mission.

Her flame for writing now burns bright for the world to see. She revisited her childhood passion and published her first book, "Kele Vorel and Courtney Queen," in April 2014. The youth-based book is the first in a seven-part series, titled, "Kele Vorel and friends of God."

The main character, Kele Vorel's "friends of God" come into her life based on the circumstances the young girl faces, Jones said. The non-denominational, Christian-based book encourages children to apply the lessons of faith they learn in the home and at church when conflicts arise in their lives.

"When I write, I focus on the issue first," she said. "The friends' characters evolve as the stories play out."

The first story addresses bullying.

"When people are hurting, they tend to hurt other people," Jones said. "If we can recognize that being mean might not be a person's nature, and there might be something deeper, then we can show them kindness and allow them room to see where they're wrong. We can possibly win them over."

The main characters in the stories, meant to inspire and encourage, are 8-12 year old girls, she said. They tell the adventures of a young girl and her friendships, which are based on acceptance, vulnerability and a friend-like love that young readers can relate to.

She said her passion for getting positive imagery out to young girls, and women alike, was also her mission.

"You know the saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child?'" Jones asked. "Well, the fact that most of us don't know our neighbors, the way people used to, does not really change that truism. The smartest parents still have to contend with external influences. I suggest that you can build your child's 'village' by enforcing positive media."

As chief financial officer to the wing commander, it rests on Jones' shoulders to observe positive and negative trends when it comes to government travel card spending. She said her keen analytical skills of pin-pointing, "what's happening, why and what we need to do to fix it," can also apply to her ability to analyze the nature of people, particularly females.

"I'm passionate about how we, as females, treat each other," Jones said. "Women take care of everyone else before themselves. We tend to lose our identity in our families and jobs; we become what we do. I have observed that our nature to nurture contradicts our interaction with one another."

"Competitiveness, conniving and vindictiveness among women have always been my pet peeves. This is not who we have to be. I think one of the best ways to learn to treat others better is by learning to love ourselves."

Her book defines the nature of girls, growing to become women, in a worthy light.

One critic said, "The author aptly captures the nostalgia and whimsy of childhood innocence. The communication style of the protagonist is colorful and hopeful. Additionally, she tackles heavy topics, such as death, and discusses cancer in a non-threatening way for young readers. The ability for the author to explore adult topics in an innocent way showing how death and loss can influence young readers is paramount."

"Kele Vorel and Mona Cloud meet Lily Flowers," is the next book in the series, and is going through the publishing process now.