Celebrated on June 12, Women Veterans Day recognizes women in the military forces and commemorates their sacrifices and valor.
President Harry S. Truman signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act into law on June 12, 1948, enabling women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces for the first time. On June 9, 2017, the 85th Texas Legislature established June 12 as Women Veterans Day “to recognize the role of women in the military forces and to commemorate the sacrifices of and valor displayed by Texas women veterans.”
Texas Tech University's Military & Veterans Programs, part of the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, celebrates the Red Raider women who have served or are serving their country. Below are some of their stories.
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Joyee Plank
- 2018 Texas Tech global studies alumna
Joyee Plank always dreamed of being a part of the U.S. Air Force. After serving in JROTC in high school, she arrived at Texas Tech and decided to join the ROTC program. At Texas Tech, she worked her way up to professional officer cadet, learning the history of the branch, what would be expected of her as an officer and leading her fellow underclassmen. On May 18, she was commissioned as a second lieutenant and graduated with her bachelor's degree in global studies. She is scheduled to start her training this September in San Angelo.
“This whole experience has been outside my comfort zone, but it's made me a better person. We are the first females in society who are able to do whatever we want to do in the military. I just think how fortunate I am to have those women in the beginning who broke those barriers and allowed women like me to be able to do this today without any obstacles.”
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kathryn Jones-Bucher
- Texas Tech electrical engineering freshman
By 2012, Kathryn Jones-Bucher had already put herself through college and chosen a career. But the urge to pick something new led her to the U.S. Navy enlistment office. She began training as an electronics technician, one of just two women in a class of 25, and was deployed on the USNS Comfort for a six-month, 11-country medical mission, something she said is a once-in-a-career experience. She served on the USS Jason Dunham in Norfolk, Virginia, for her next assignment. She completed her service in 2016 and arrived at Texas Tech as an electrical engineering major in 2018.
“I'm really proud of my service. I didn't know any female veterans when I went in. My dad served, my grandfather served, but it wasn't an opportunity that I thought I could do. It's just really important to have those role models for other young girls to know that, yes, we can do this.”
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Henly
- 2018 incoming Texas Tech higher education graduate student;
- veterans and military adviser and U.S. Veteran's Affairs school certifying official, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC)
Sara Henly had tossed around the idea of joining the military since high school, but it wasn't until several years later that she finally decided to pursue it seriously. After scoring well on a practice version of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a test given by the military to assess an applicant's qualifications for enlistment and to identify the military occupational specialty for which they are best-suited, she joined the Navy in 2009 and active for six years.
She was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, on a destroyer, the USS Mason, and held many different roles, including serving as her division's career counselor. She moved to Lubbock in 2016 and became the veterans and military adviser and Veteran's Affairs school certifying official at TTUHSC, while also being involved in local veteran organizations, like the local chapter of Team Red, White and Blue Lubbock. In fall 2018, she will return to school as a higher education graduate student in the College of Education.
“If people don't think they're treated fairly, then they need to have a voice and someone they can go to and if they feel their immediate chain of command isn't someone they are comfortable speaking with. If they don't feel like they're getting the support, they need to not be afraid to go higher than that. I think it's really great that the Legislature passed this bill that recognized June 12 as Women Veterans Day in Texas because women carry a variety of issues that their male counterparts might not have experienced. I think that needs to be recognized so they get the help they deserve and that they were promised.”
Arizona Air National Guard retired Maj. Gen. and U.S. Army retired Col. Dr. Annette Sobel
- professor, Department of Medical Education, TTUHSC;
- director, Global Laboratory for Energy Asset Management & Manufacturing
Dr. Annette Sobel said she joined the army on the advice of her father, who had served as a military police officer.
“This will be a great experience for you,” he told her. “You'll look back and you'll be delighted you did it.”
She completed her military training at Princeton University, the only female distinguished military graduate. Before retiring in 2008, her 20-year military career included serving as the first Director of Intelligence for the National Guard Bureau, immediately after 9/11 and during the Hurricane Katrina response, and in combat in Operation Just Cause in Panama. Sobel supported Space Shuttle Operations at NASA-Dryden Test Flight Facility during Operation Desert Storm. As senior flight surgeon for the 57th MEDEVAC Detachment at Fort Bragg, Sobel was responsible for all pre-hospital medical care and training. She also served as the assistant to the chief of the National Guard Bureau and the chief's adviser for Civil-Military Support during 9/11. Sobel served as Homeland Security director and deputy secretary of the Department of Public Safety for the State of New Mexico from 2003 to 2005.
She was a senior adviser to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Sobel also served as senior adviser for Biosecurity Engagement in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense/Nuclear, Chemical and the Biological Defense Program. She is the chair of the Permanent Monitoring Panel for mitigation of acts of terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists.
“When I was promoted to two-star general, our class for generals only had three women general officers. You can imagine how having that type of proportion – we were breaking ground. In terms of women going into military service now, a lot more opportunities are available. The most important thing you can do is grab every opportunity for education that you can. Women clearly have aptitude that's different from men to complete certain tasks. Women should not be held back by that, but they need to recognize that they need special training and special awareness to succeed in those fields.”
U.S. Marines retired Sgt. Missy Helbert
- TTUHSC alumna, lead transfer advisor for Texas Tech Undergraduate Admissions
As her high school graduation neared, Missy Helbert knew she wanted to go to college, but she said she felt it wasn't yet the right time for her. She began looking at her military options and, wanting to do something different than her many Army family members, became the first Marine among them in 1980. She spent six years in the Marine Corps, working in Motor Transport as a logistics officer. During her service, her unit received an expeditionary medal for their efforts in Operation Eagle Claw during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980. In 2011, she obtained her bachelor's degree in healthcare management and then completed her master's degree in rehabilitation counseling in 2014, both from the TTUHSC. She now serves as lead transfer adviser in the Texas Tech Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
“Most women won't tell you they're a veteran. They won't tell you they served. To have a day for just women is pretty awesome because we don't get the recognition that men do. This is a way to honor those who've served – who may have served in battle or whatever – who you don't hear anything about. I am pleased that we have the Military & Veterans Programs office on campus. They're a big help to our veteran students, especially when veterans need structure. They provide that.”