Cherri Pitts has been an active member of South Texas Atheists for Reason (STAR) since February 2016 and became STAR's director of administration in July of 2016. She's also a regular volunteer at the atheist/humanist meetings at Lackland Air Force Base in Bexar County, Texas. Pitts has a BA in business management and is the mother of four and grandmother of two. She and her husband Jerry live in San Antonio, Texas, with their two rescue dogs Apollo and Luna.
This interview originally appeared in the online newsletter of the United Coalition of Reason on July 22, 2017, and has been lightly edited.
Susann Heap: Do you have any military experience that led you to regularly volunteer at Lackland AFB? What inspired you to give so much time and effort to that work?
Cherri Pitts: I was in the Navy Reserve from 1990-1993 in my early twenties. I enjoyed my time there and learned a lot, especially about diversity and how we all want the same things, even when we just can't seem to agree on how to achieve them. I first got involved with STAR as a social group about eighteen months ago to be around like-minded people. I'm actually an introvert and didn't like speaking in public. [STAR cofounder and Executive Director] Victoria Gettman invited me to attend the Lackland meetings a few times and said she needed support for some changes that were happening with the regular volunteers. After going to a few of these meetings, I was hooked. It took me about six months to even introduce myself, but the energy and joy I see on the trainees faces makes me feel good about what we're doing. They were very supportive when I was nervous and they would say, "You're doing great!"
The trainees and airmen have shared their deepest fears, sorrows, and pain with us, and we don't take that lightly. I have a great time each week because they make us laugh and cry, and I feel a very personal connection to them as a group: that's why I keep going back. I know what it was like in boot camp, being separated from your family, friends, and experiencing culture shock. They tell us they get to feel "human" again for a few hours each week. That inspires us to keep going and to share time with them.
SH: When you hear the phrase "No atheists in foxholes," how does that make you feel, given the work you do with military trainees and your prior military service?
CP: I think "No atheists in foxholes" is a statement of ignorance. I understand as a phrase it's trying to portray a time of...