MG Dee Ann McWilliams

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Major General Dee Ann McWilliams, USA, Retired, took the helm as president of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation on January 1, 2016. Serving 29 years with the United States Army, MG McWilliams held a variety of Human Relations positions, including command of four companies, a training battalion, and a personnel brigade. She also taught national strategic studies and leadership, and served as an Equal Opportunity Officer. As Director, Military Personnel Management for Department of the Army, MG McWilliams developed policy and strategy for staffing, salary compensation, and training for over 1 million soldiers, to include recruitment of more than 100,000 annually. She also served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel and Installation Management in Europe where she provided human resource and quality of life support to soldiers in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia, Greece, and Egypt. MG McWilliams retired from the Army in 2003 and later joined the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She retired in 2010 as Director of the Lessons Learned Center. MG McWilliams holds degrees from Lon Morris College, Stephen F. Austin University where she was named a distinguished alumnus, Texas Woman’s University, and the National War College. She serves on the advisory boards of the Army Historical Foundation and the Army Women’s Foundation where she previously served as President. In 2007, MG McWilliams joined the board of directors for the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, assuming the position of Vice Chair in 2014. She was the 2013 recipient of the Lillian K. Keil Award for outstanding contributions to women’s service in the United States military and was named a Trailblazer by Women Veterans Interactive.

We honor you, Dee Ann McWilliams.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson)

COL Jayne H. Cooley

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Like many Baby Boomers, Jayne Cooley had a father who served in World War II, but she had no designs on a career in the military. However, in 1978, a friend persuaded her to join the Army Reserves for a chance to supplement her income as a private duty nurse. Twelve years later, Cooley was called up to serve in the Persian Gulf War. She worked in the operating room of a 400-bed hospital that was 10 miles from the front lines, treating American GIs and Iraqi POWs alike. The Army made sure that its women and men were treated exactly the same, but things were different when Cooley went off base and had to deal with traditional Arab views of women.

We honor you, Jayne Cooley.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

PO1 Leonardo Lucio

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Leonardo Lucio was born September 11, 1972 in Chicago Heights, Illinois. His family had a history of working with the railroad: his father worked for the Union Pacific Railroad, and his grandfather and younger brothers also both worked for the railroad. Coming from a big family—his father was the oldest of 13 kids; his mother the youngest of 8— Mr. Lucio remembers fondly his father taking him and his siblings to Mexico every couple of years to get to know their extended family and to learn the language—and these visits may be one reason Mr. Lucio had learned to love to travel. Mr. Lucio attended Bloom High School, where he participated in tennis, swimming, and was a member of the Glee club. Because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after he graduated, he listened to the different military recruiters that came to his school, only to find that the Navy offered him something he really wanted. “Key word: Travel. That’s what I wanted to do; I wanted to see the world.” Identifying a career path was something else Mr. Lucio remembers about his recruiting experience: he didn’t really know what he wanted to do in the Navy.

Because he didn’t know anyone in the service prior to joining, he didn’t have any previous exposure to military occupations. As a result, he signed up to be a deck seaman. After basic training, Mr. Lucio went straight to his first ship the USS Oldendorf (DD-972) as an undesignated seaman—only to find himself being sent to the middle of a war zone. The USS Oldendorf, home ported in Yokosuka, Japan was forward deployed as part of the Midway Battle Group in preparation for Operation Desert Storm. Mr. Lucio recalls patrolling the waters of the Persian Gulf with the Midway Battle Group. “It was in the height of the war so when the Iraqis were burning the Kuwaiti oil fields we could see the oil fields burning. We could smell it. We could see it in the water. We were that close.” As an 18 year-old deck seaman he remembers his thinking at the time: “…I do not want to be here and I do not believe in war. But I had no choice. I signed up. I raised my hand and I had to fulfil my duty.” It wasn’t until later in his tour onboard the Oldendorf that Leo was allowed to “strike” for a rating outside of the arduous deck department. As a deck seaman in 1st division he was exposed to various jobs in the Navy and he got lucky in discovering the rate of Postal Clerk. It was in this rate where Mr. Lucio found his calling in the Navy.

Today Mr. Lucio is part of the Navy Funeral Honor Guard, after Congress passed legislation providing every U.S. military veteran the ability to receive a funeral with military honors in 1999. Mr. Lucio performs 3 to 4 funerals per week on average. Over the last 14 years he has performed close to 2,000 funerals with honors. He loves doing it and considers it not only a part of his naval career, but part of who he is – it has been a truly rewarding experience.

We honor you, Leonardo Lucio.

(#Repost @Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

SGM Mary L. Aurtrey

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Born in Maryland, Sergeant Major Mary Aurtrey was an eighteen-year-old living in small-town South Carolina, craving travel and adventure, when she made the decision in 1969 to join the Army. In her roles as typist, stenographer, and administrator, her service during the Vietnam and Persian Gulf eras led her around the world–from locations stateside to Korea, Germany, and Belgium–and to support high-ranking officers such as General Alexander Haig. Beyond simply providing her with an education, she cites personal interactions as one of the highlights of her military career; as she explains, serving in the Army taught her to appreciate people, fundamentally changing her outlook on life. Aurtrey served a total of 22 years.

Aurtrey continued in a lifetime of public service, both as the current chaplain for the American Legion Women’s Post #438 and a Systems Accountant at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Center, Indianapolis.

(#Repost @ Veteran’s History Project and US Army Reserve)

Alex Aerts

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Alex graduated for Clearfield High School in June of 1965 and enlisted in the US Army two months later. He went to Basic Training in Ft. Polk, Louisiana and then Combat Medic Training at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. He trained as Neuropsychiatric specialist and Brooke Army Medical Center Sand Antonio Texas. Alex received on the job training at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco, California, followed by a 3 year station at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. in the Psych Department, NCOIC.

Alex took a 14 year break in service and then re-enlisted into the Utah National Guard 144th Evacuation Hospital where he worked through the ranks from Spec. 5 to Spec. 6, converted to Staff Sergeant.

During his service in the National Guard, Alex was deployed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield, and remained there through Desert Storm and Desert Calm.  As Chief Wardmaster, he was tasked with establishing a 400 bed hospital in 14 days, and was able to achieve it in 12 days!

Alex returned home in 1991 where he attended another Academy and was promoted to First Sergeant. Due to Reduction of Forces, he was transferred to the 625th Military Police as First Sergeant and went TDY to the Panama Canal to conduct a law and order mission.

He retired from the Utah National Guard in September 1999 and has since been involved with the American Legion for the past 12 years and held many leadership positions including 2nd Vice Commander, 1st Vice Commander, and Post Commander for Post 132 for 2 years. He was the 2nd Vice Commander, 1st Vice Commander and District Commander for 2 years for District 8. Alex is currently the Department of Utah Commander for the American Legion.

He is also a life member with the VFW, and has been involved with the Knights of Columbus and The Boy Scouts of America.

We honor you, Alex Aerts.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson)

TSgt Meg Parrish Miner

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Recruited by the Air Force, Meg Parrish Miner joined the military straight out of high school, enticed by the chance to leave her small town, get an education, and hold the impressive-sounding title of “jet engine mechanic”–despite having zero background in any kind of mechanics. The sixteen years she spent in the military–including with the famous Thunderbird division, and then working on F-16s while stationed in Turkey following the Gulf War–proved to be eye-opening, as she had hoped.

Meg was in the Air Force from 1979-1995. During that time, she served at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma; Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada; Hahn Air Base and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; and Turkey.

We honor you, Meg Miner.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

CPT Josephine Taylor

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Entering the military through ROTC, Captain Josephine Taylor enjoyed the way in which basic training both challenged and also instilled confidence in her. While she did not anticipate having to deploy to Saudi Arabia, she rose to the challenge as a transportation company commander (762nd Transportation Company). Constantly worrying about the welfare of her unit took a toll, as did the Scud missile attacks, the “breathtaking” heat, and the daily sandstorms. She returned home “emotionally drained,” though grateful for the strength of character that the military had helped her to develop.

We honor you, Josephine Taylor.

(#Repost @vetshistoryproject)