Born in Los Angeles and raised in Long Beach, Calif., Tiffany is the first of three children adopted by her aunt Judy Thompson, whom she calls mother. As a teenager she attended Paramount High School in the city of Paramount, a school that has been named one of America’s Best High Schools by U.S. News & World Report. But Tiffany admits she was not one of America’s best high school students in her youth, and her grades suffered.
“During the last week of my sophomore year I stopped attending Paramount High to become a trainee at the Long Beach Job Corps,” Tiffany said. “At that time I was 16, and the trade I worked in was culinary arts. No matter how thorough I trained I could never get the hang of it. It never really grabbed my interest. The main reason for me going to Job Corps was to be guaranteed of my high school diploma since my grades dropped significantly when I was in public school. I showed rapid progress in all the curriculum required of me. On Aug. 13, 2007, Tiffany said she graduated from the School of Integrated Academics and Technologies at the Job Corps a year earlier than her original class, at the age of 17. But Tiffany found that her lack of enthusiasm for a “normal life” was as challenging as her latest academy achievements.
“On the following Monday I attended Cerritos Community College for a year. Life back home was boring,” she admits. “I worked at the Norwalk 20 Theatre for only three days and nothing seemed to move me. After I stopped working at the movie theatre I felt dormant and idle. Plus the house we lived in at the time was becoming too expensive for my family. My mom suggested I join the military because she believed it would give me a great head start and could be used as a steppingstone to further my knowledge and experience in life.”
Going nowhere fast, Tiffany said she called the local U.S. Army recruiting station on a Sunday to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. “A recruiter came knocking at my door to drive me to the station to speak on the options available to enlist,” she said. “I decided to enlist in November of 2008. I joined the Army as my preferred branch because two of my uncles served there before me. I felt like it was right for me.”
At last, Tiffany found something challenging, educational, exciting and structured that fit her preferred lifestyle, stating, “I enjoy being in the service! What other way can an American show their pride to their country than to serve the people? My life will never be the same because of it. The things I enjoy the most about being in the Army are meeting great people, the personal growth and the traveling. I have no kids and have never been married, so I am free to do what feels right for me. One day I do plan on starting a family. But until that time comes, I will continue to work toward the goals I’ve set out for myself.”
Her tour of duty in Afghanistan from July 2010 to July 2011 proved to be the turning point for the venturesome youth. In her own words, Tiffany describes her personal experience in Afghanistan:
“When we arrived in Afghanistan in late July of 2010 we slept in large tents that could fit at least 200 to 300 people. It was hot and humid during the day and warm at night. In the tent where my unit slept, the only thing that divided the males from the females was the mattresses of vacant bunk beds that stood vertically to block the males and females from each other’s view.
“All during the flight into Afghanistan, not once did I get nervous or anxious. My reason for deploying was personal. I felt that in order for me to progress as a person there was something I must master and the only way to do so was to experience what was ahead. Whatever the unknown had in store for me, ‘I could not be beaten!’ was my mindset.
“To my surprise, what I was to witness was not the usual grueling aspects of war. I was fortunate enough not to witness comrades getting killed or vehicles blown up. But there was tremendous tension at times.
“I was always a conscientious person, very sensitive to my surroundings. As I dealt with a growing fear and anxiety in foreign territory I learned to cope with the personal battles of my inner conflicts. There became two wars I was fighting all for the price of one.
“The first night in Afghanistan I laid asleep with my weapon tucked underneath my body and loaded magazines inside my assault pack at the foot of my cot. I hadn’t adapted to the loud noise of airplanes hovering above. The noise frequently woke me from my sleep many nights. I was confusing the loud wind as rockets being targeted directly at me.
“As I recall, I was asleep and all of a sudden I woke in a cold sweat — panicking and believing that the Forward Operations Base had just gotten ambushed and mistakenly believing that we had to prepare to attack the enemy! I sat up on my cot and looked around, noticing there was no movement from any soldiers inside the tent. I prayed and fell back to sleep.
“It wasn’t until March of 2012 that I realized exactly what I had experienced during my yearlong stay in Afghanistan. There are all types of warfare which we all fight on a daily basis. We fight against ourselves — trying to overcome unhealthy habits, digital and spiritual warfare. Many people — soldiers and civilians — witness tragedies or go through traumatic events and suffer with post traumatic stress syndrome. Perhaps everything is rooted in our spirituality and if we are not conscious enough to realize it, numerous problems will spill over into our daily lives, causing added stress, anxiety, pain, and bad thoughts.”
Tiffany’s eye-opening revelation inspired her to write graphic poetry, which captures the feel of combat and the realization that her safety is ultimately in the hands of Someone higher. In her poem, “Screaming, ‘Grace!’” she wrote:
“The rockets have landed and found comfort in the crumbled gravel that lay adjacent to my shack. I am asleep. I see the soldiers running for safety as the sirens alarm, “Shelter in place!” I am asleep. My soul has decided to rise above my flesh. That moment I’d breathe my last breath? Am I alive? ‘There’s more to life, I have to conquer defeat!’ is what I tell my God. Can I live? Will I live? War has trapped me in the dusty winds of resilience. My only lifeline is my salvation. I’ve grown, matured. The real test is when faith is tested. The real testimony is triumph. ‘All clear!’ is yelled from the amplifiers. I AM still alive. I fear sleep now. I’ll weep myself to rest. I am STILL alive. There’s a fifty percent chance that the rocket or the rocket’s effect will kill me. Ill willed human beings. Nonetheless, I am here but this was never my fight. Who’s to blame? Maybe this war will mean nothing or something to the next man fighting. This war is mine, and the real war is from within. GRACE! GRACE! GRACE! I’ll scream to the God who breathes life and spares mercy. PEACE! PEACE! PEACE!
“I’ll scream to the God who hides me in His bosom. From afar, there’s a man whose vehicle exploded, when driving down a hidden trap. From afar there’s a woman who has killed herself, From afar there’s a man who’s lost all sanity. From afar there’s a woman who’s been captured, tortured, and raped. From afar there am I, protected from all harm though I am in harm’s way. By only looking at the surface you will not notice and know this but protection surfaces, by the way of soul searching. My two guardian angels will forever hear my soul screaming, “Grace!”
Tiffany said the things she struggled with the most was “trying to keep sane and gain composure. All I had was my faith to lean on. I learned how the mind is a powerful thing and how to create my reality through the thoughts I meditated on.” The aspiring writer is putting her life’s experiences and poetry on paper in the hopes of being published some day. “I plan to write about my experience in the war zone,” she said. “All I can do is speak from the heart and what holds true for me. I’m not worried about who finds it entertaining or not. I feel because I am aware of truth, I am also charged to spread it. My career plan, after the Army, is to continue working on getting published, attending college and reintegrating back into the civilian world. I am eager to begin the life I want to live.”
The communication specialist said her mother was right. The Army gave her what she needed to get her life on track. Now she says her life has greater depth, enthusiasm and meaning, as well as a mature outlook on life and death.
“Every day is filled with routines and spontaneity because like civilian life, any task may come up at any moment,” she said. “We are Soldiers 24/7. Am I ever afraid for my life? No. Although I haven’t gotten to the point that I no longer fear death, I believe it’s all a mental thing. But as far as me being in the Army and the possibility of me dying in war, no. Because of my experiences and what I’ve witnessed in life as a whole, I understand there’s a time and place for everything, including death.”
For now, Tiffany said it is a time of spiritual awakening about truth, understanding and discovering what truly matters in life. “I want everyone to become enlightened and open their eyes to what the world is — the meaning for our existence and to no longer be blind sighted to false promises,” she said. “If that happens the world will be a much better place. I want people to have the discernment to differentiate truth from lies. Ever since I’ve become more aware of my purpose I feel charged to ignite and spark people to becoming aware of themselves. And I’m comfortable being an open book because I am passionate about helping others. When I tell people where I come from they seem to be in awe of the fact that I am only 22 and have already been through so much. But I know I am not a product of my past. Like my story, there are many people from the ghettos and suburbs who can relate. Ultimately being a humanitarian and speaking to people from all walks of life while growing individually is what I dream of. A year ago, I finally decided to no longer go after what interested me but what interested God. Since then I have been learning, reading, studying and inquiring about what truth is. I think I’m on the right track.”
Having survived the social and psychological challenges of growing up in lower middle class surroundings without her birth parents, without a normal high school education or the motivation to excel, Jordan decided not to be defined by her past and took decisive action to control her future. Today, she is a proud U.S. Army specialist stationed in North Carolina with new hopes and bright aspirations, not only for herself, but for others. “I know that the present time is shaping the future to what it will be,” she said. “The only thing I want to see is for people from every status, class, race, religion, tribe and country to know their worth — to know what is truth, to have integrity and be happy within themselves. Although I am only 22 years old I know that once someone has found that kind of security — nothing will be able to stop them. Mental liberation and breaking the chains of spiritual bondage is what I’m for. There’s so many things in life I want to do and contribute to the world.”