As we celebrate our nation’s independence, I am honored to share my military experiences and how my military career led me to become an educator.
Before I share my journey, I want to honor our Veterans and their families for their service to our Nation. I especially want to thank our family members for their sacrifice and service because they create the conditions for service members to serve.
Each Veteran and family member deserves our gratitude and respect for their sacrifices to protect the principles upon which this country was founded.
I had the privilege to serve this Nation as an Army Officer, “Hooah!” For 20 years, one month, and a wake-up, I had the honor to lead soldiers and civilians in various positions and locations. My area of expertise was Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare, Weapons of Mass Destruction. That’s a mouthful, so we call it NBC or “Bugs and Gas.”
As a Chemical Corp Officer, my career caused my family to move 14 times and live in seven different states and a foreign country. In addition, I traveled across the United States and numerous countries on temporary duty assignments.
While I loved my military career, it was not my first career choice. When I entered college, I wanted to be an FBI Agent. My major was Biology with a minor in Chemistry, so I wanted to be a forensic scientist. However, I was scheduled to graduate at 20 because I started college early. However, 23 was required to become a special agent. Since I was in ROTC, the FBI recruiter encouraged me to serve in the military for three years and then apply for the FBI Academy, with veterans’ preference.
I have to be transparent and tell you why I joined ROTC since joining the military was not on my radar. ROTC offered helicopter rides if you joined, and my father was helicopter crew chief, so I wanted to experience his work. I stayed for the semester because I was told it was an easy grade.
I was a terrible cadet in my freshman year. In fact, I was rated the worst cadet by my peers. However, I committed to improving after I moved past my ego and realized how ROTC could help me become an FBI agent and serve my country. As a result, I was selected as the first female cadet commander in my senior year. I also won all of the leadership awards. So, I went from worst to first!
The day after my college graduation, I was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army and began my military career as a third-generation soldier. Yes, my father and grandfather had served in the Army. So we are a military family! My husband is a retired Marine, and one of our sons is serving our Nation today as a fourth-generation soldier.
So, I know you’re wondering why did I decide to make the military a career? Well, for two reasons. First, I found my calling. I loved leading soldiers! Leadership is a privilege, especially in the military, because you hold the lives of your soldiers in your hand. All of my decisions directly impacted the soldiers I led.
The military helped me find my voice as a leader. I was often the only female officer on the staff throughout my career. As a result, I understood I was a role model for other soldiers. My leadership training gave me the confidence and courage to leverage my rank and position at the table to advocate for all individuals.
Second, when you serve in the military, you serve in an organization whose purpose is larger than the individual. My work was not about me; it was about defending the idea of America. I wore my uniform daily to protect every citizen’s freedom. My commitment to serving required my family and me to make many sacrifices, but it was necessary because freedom is not free!
When I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, I wasn’t sure what my next career would be, but I wanted to serve a larger purpose. A mutual friend in the military suggested becoming a teacher because I love teaching and training soldiers.
While my last military assignment was at the Pentagon, working for the Secretary of Defense, the best job I had during my military career was serving as a Basic Training Company Commander. My drill sergeants and I turned civilians, typical high school students, into soldiers. So, as I reflected on my friend’s recommendation, I was torn between two options. They were to work for a defense contractor, make a handsome six-figure salary, or become a teacher, earning less than my military retirement.
Well, after a lot of prayer and family meetings, I chose education as my next career. I know you’re wondering why I didn’t take the money. Because in education, we shape, mold, and influence the future!
Let me share why, throughout my career, I have chosen service over money. First, I believe we were created for a purpose, and our purpose is to serve others. Second, educating students and serving our Nation ultimately fulfill the ideal of what America is all about.
I was born and raised in Chester, Pennsylvania, which is 20 minutes from Philadelphia. In elementary school, I remember visiting Constitutional Hall and the Liberty Bell, where the words, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” were written.
Although I have lived and worked in places where I was not always welcomed because of my skin color, I have always believed in the idea of America! While our country is not perfect, it is a beacon of hope.
The founding principles of our Nation serve as an inspiration to the world. I believe we can achieve the first 14 words of the Preamble of the Constitution. The words, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union.” We, you and me, are “we the people!”
So, as we celebrate our independence today and every day, remember the first 14 words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union.”
To achieve the goals outlined by the founding fathers, I believe it starts with educating students. Then, with each generation, we have the opportunity to move closer to achieving an “ideal” America. Together, we can move closer to a “more perfect union.”
As you reflect upon our freedoms this Independence Day, I’d like to leave you with three questions to answer:
- What is your purpose?
- How will you use your purpose to serve others? And,
- What can you do to move us toward a “more perfect union?
Remember, “We the people is you.” You are the leaders who will move us closer to “a more perfect union.” Embrace your power! Now is the time to step up and lead!
Thank you, veterans, and your families, for your service!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent those of my employer or any local, state, or federal government.