Southside veteran learns life-changing skills to achieve her dreams

Southside veteran learns life-changing skills to achieve her dreams

By Nancy Price

A Southside resident’s decision to enlist in the military has led to a work ethic that has helped her to reach her goals, from saving money to build her own home to starting and maintaining a popular local restaurant.

Bryant grew up in Ft. Wayne, IN and joined the military right out of high school. She chose to enlist in the U.S. Navy because she loved being around water. Although she had been interested in becoming a veterinarian, she decided to train in the medical field since the Navy didn’t have a veterinary program.

In 2004, Bryant attended boot camp for eight weeks in Great Lakes, IL.

During training, “I did a lot of grunt work,” Bryant said. “Scrubbing the floors, painting and making sure the ship looked nice, driving the ship and taking orders from officers. I was painting and sanding. I did a lot of everything.”

On-the-job training

Then came medical training. “I was training for a week and then doing stitches,” she said, though medics were present at all times to oversee her work. Bryant performed a variety of medical duties, from packing wounds to how to treat someone when an explosive hit his or her eye. “I was like, I can’t believe I’m doing this and I’m not even in medical school,” she said.

Erica Bryant trained in the medical field in the Navy. (Submitted photo)

Though she worked hard, Bryant made a lot of friends that she still stays in touch with today. “A lot of us were young,” she said. “It was like a big high school.”

She also enjoyed traveling and living in various areas of the U.S. She worked on a brand-new ship made in Maine, was stationed in Virginia and lived in Florida and California.

Bryant decided to enroll in an online school for medical assisting and earned a certificate in personal training and moved to New Jersey after her time in the military. She eventually moved to Indianapolis, where she attended nursing school. “When I went to nursing school, I was like, ‘yeah, I’ve already done that,’” she said of her medical training in the Navy.

She also worked with medical staff at St. Vincent with patient care and open-heart surgeries. In addition, she was a personal trainer at a gym.

Bryant opened The Healthy Food Café on South Emerson Avenue in 2016. (Photo by Nancy Price)

As a single mother to a young daughter, Bryant decided that she could not continue working for 12 hours a day and decided to be an owner of a gym and offer a meal-prep service. Eventually, Bryant decided to have her own food truck, which led to opening The Healthy Food Café at 8020 S. Emerson Ave., Indianapolis, in 2016.

Healthy options

The café serves smoothies and specialty coffee, in addition to organic drinks and food, including cold-pressed juices, salads, flatbread pizzas tacos, grass-fed steak, all-natural chicken, wild-caught shrimp, tofu, veggies, brown rice, quinoa and brownies. In addition, there is a vending machine available even when the store is closed for guests to purchase juices and brownies.

“If you’re vegan and your husband is a meat eater and your kids are gluten free, they can have anything they like here,” Bryant said. “I try to stay with local vendors and we’re military owned and operated.”

Bryant said she achieved the work ethic she employs today from her time spent in the military. “I’m used to a certain work ethic and integrity,” she said. “After hiring people, if they slack off, it’s hard for me to understand. You (should) show up on time. I’ve done a lot of different things that help with organization and work ethic. I saved 50 percent of my paychecks and basically used savings from the military to build a house and start my (new) life. I think my work ethic from grunt work to moving things along helped me start businesses and I try to wok on my business to help it grow.”

For more information about The Healthy Food Café, visit

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