“Not all women wear pearls and sensible shoes to work, some wear dog tags and combat boots.” (Author unknown)
Statistically, women now represent 15% of the US military. As we celebrate Veterans Day, read about four veterans’ experiences – what led them to join the military, the challenges, what military service taught them, and how being part of the military impacted their lives.
Melissa served in the U.S. Army for eight years as a Sergeant in a petroleum supply unit. She is a Desert Storm/Desert Shield veteran responsible for refueling helicopters in forward areas while they were still running, replenishing their ammunition at the same time. She trained at Fort McClellan and Fort Lee. She was stationed at Katterback, Germany for three years. Melissa shared that she considered several options before joining the Army, including the Peace Corps. She stopped by the Mall Army recruitment office to get some information and made her decision on the spot. She was the first in her immediate family to join the military. The biggest challenge was being the first female in a forward unit. Melissa shared that her years of service led her to ‘live a life of gratitude, [knowing] that there’s a silver lining to everything.’ She values freedom and developed strong communication skills that she now uses in her civilian life.
Kathleen was a Captain in the U.S. Army and served for ten years. While in service as a member of the Signal Corps, she lived in Stuttgart, Germany (Patch Barracks Post), was stationed at Fort Hood for five years, and Fort Gordon. Kathleen shared that when she graduated from UNC-G, the job market was scarce. The Army enlistment commercial ‘Be All You Can Be’ caught her attention one afternoon and she decided to check out her options at the local recruitment center. She signed up and after basic training, completed Officer Candidate School. The physical training, known as the daily dozen, was most challenging with its combination of push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, and runs. Her time in service instilled a ‘do what you said you would do’ philosophy. When asked if she’d join again, her response was a resounding yes. Kathleen explained that her military experiences increased her self-confidence, self-discipline, and strengthened her leadership skills – attributes she carried into civilian life and utilized throughout her career. She is actively involved with the NC Purple Heart Foundation. She is a proud patriot and happy to have served her country.
Leigh served in the U.S. Navy with the rank of Lieutenant for eight years (four active duty and four in the reserves, completed while she was finishing medical school). She served in Pensacola, Guam for two years, and Port Hueneme. Financial assistance for medical school was a beneficial aspect of being in the military. The distance from home was difficult; traveling home from Guam was a 24-hour event. Leigh shared that the training and experience from being a Navy physician allowed her to practice a full range of medicine. “When you’re an intern in the military, you’re expected to act solo on many procedures, from appendicitis to childbirth. Training is geared toward self-sufficiency. Those skills made starting a business as a civilian much easier.” She, too, enjoyed the opportunities her years in the Navy provided, such as traveling and the strong sense of community that develops when far from home. Her daughter is now attending NC State on a full Marine scholarship with OCS in her future.
Delphine served in the U.S. Army for six years as an M. P. with the rank of Captain. She spent a year in Korea, as well as time at Fort McClellan, The Airborne School at Fort Benning, where she completed five jumps, and Fort Dix where she was the M.P. Company Commander. Her family had a tradition of military service so her decision to join the Army was simply a continuation of that tradition. She shared that her military experiences enhanced her leadership and interpersonal skills, as well as her decision-making abilities. Her interpersonal skills were put to the test in Korea when the majority of her platoon was male with more years of service than hers. She has no regrets and values her military service. “I wish more young people would decide to serve our country. You learn such valuable lessons that prepare you for the future.”
These women exemplify others who also gave years of their lives to serve our country, learning skills, and pushing beyond their expectations. Their love of country and freedom is unquestionable.
We salute each of you and all who serve. Thank you for your service and sacrifice protecting our freedoms!