Voices of Athena with Priscilla Brenenstuhl

Bravery, Naivety, or Both? with Linda Medler

Was it bravery that led Independent Director and One-star General, Linda Medler to join the Marines at 18 years old on the heels of the Vietnam war? She’d argue it was naivety. In this episode, we’re making a case for both.

liz tinkham

Voices of Athena

Sit down with the highly accomplished members of Athena Alliance, an executive learning community for women leaders, to hear the personal tales behind their professional success. We learn the real story behind their inspiring executive careers — their fears, their failures, and what song they’re singing at karaoke. You don’t get to the top without creating some memorable stories along the way.

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Bravery, Naivety, or Both? with Linda Medler

linda medler

Linda: How does this ditzy grandma who dresses up for Christmas in crazy sweatshirt that she’s been wearing for 25 yearsand sings let it snow, let it snow starting in November, even get to be a 1 star general.
MUSIC: Holiday; Upbeat
Priscilla: Welcome to Voices of Athena, a podcast highlighting the more personal side of the successful women that make up the Athena Alliance- a learning community for executve women. I’m your host, Priscilla Brenenstuhl. Today we have the pleasure of sitting down with Linda Medler to talk about family, service, resiliency and how dramatically one decison can change the trajectory of you life.
Hi, Linda.
Linda: Hi, Priscilla, how is your baby?

Priscilla: Thank you. He is all the things that babies are, you know, he brings me the greatest joy and the greatest challenges.

Linda: Yeah. So how old is he now?

Priscilla: He just turned two months.

Linda: Okay. So I have 16 grandkids, I don’t know if you know that. And I have been through baby stages with all of them. My, hopefully my last, I shouldn’t say hopefully. But given the age of my children, hopefully my last grandchild was born in April. And she’s having her four month checkup today. And just the difference, but you know, the first two months are just traumatic are mom and baby, just, you know, you just got to go through that. And you just got to kind of live through that, in my opinion. That’s right, then, around the three month mark, you know, they start cooing and they’re smiling, and they’re giggling a little bit. And then at four months, they start rolling over and their personalities come out and they start sleeping a little bit more, and you put them on a little bit of schedule. So there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Priscilla: Yes, thank you, Linda. I hear that, I receive that. I have been telling myself one breath at a time. I do have a five year old son. So I know that the time goes by so fast. And so I want to honor all those stages. You know, there’s that saying you never know when you’ll hold your child for the last time and, and yeah, so I hear you and I thank you for reaffirming that in my mind.

Linda: When I just sometimes you know, you just get so tired. I mean, I was so young when I had mine. I had no clue, right? I let them sleep on their stomachs and I overfed them to get them to sleep and blah, blah, blah, but they both survived. So, you know, but it was back in the 70s. And, and I was clueless anyway, so..

Priscilla: Well, Linda, I am a birth worker, actually. And I would I would like to say I honor what you’re saying. And I also like to say that those children chose you as the mother, you now have 18 grandchildren, you did something really right. And it takes a mother, each child and each mother has their own relationship, their own experience, and I’m sure you gave them so much that they’re grateful for and so much that you can be proud of.

Linda: Well, I made them work, let’s put it this way. I guess I cuddled them a little bit with spoiling them but we were quite financially strapped and you know, coming to a new pair of shoes was not something we took for granted. So you know I tried to instill in them the value of a work ethic and working for what you what your goals that you want to achieve in life.

Priscilla: And that seems to have served them.

Linda: Well. I don’t think they appreciated it when I was making them do it.

Priscilla: Well, that’s I think the the challenge of being a mom, you know, is that you, you, you have to make those decisions and, and teach about sacrifice and loss. If you’re doing an honest job. It’s not always pretty, it’s not always fun.

Linda: And yeah, if you say it paid off, so it’s so funny. I mean, I know we haven’t started yet. But I just had this discussion with my 22 year old grandson who’s grappling with some decisions regarding college and playing football. And I said, I told him, I said, “Brandon, I don’t care what you see on YouTube, life is hard. You have to work for what you want. You’re not going to be a million dollar a year YouTuber tomorrow.” So you know, I mean, that’s fantasy. And there are some people who achieve that. But for most of us, we actually have to work pretty darn hard.
Eventually, I think they’ll get it.

MUSIC

Priscilla: I can appreciate your you as a busy woman with a busy schedule. And so finding the time to meet with me, I consider myself blessed and grateful.

Linda: Well, let me tell you this. So I just, you know, I’m doing this for Athena and Coco. And you because I can’t think of anything less that I want to do is a podcast because I just
I just don’t think that there’s you know, anything worth? I don’t know, I just, I just find it very humbling to be asked to do it. And if I can help within Alliance and help some of my
fellow members, you know, but I don’t think I have any thing great to say, but we’ll go through it.

Priscilla: Oh, so interesting. I thought you’re just gonna say, you know, I don’t like podcasts. I just don’t, I find them useless. But you’re saying you don’t think you have anything to say. I doubt, I doubt it.

I want to say for starters that I was just honoring the timing of this the way it worked out because you know, my oldest friends. Julie Vaughn, I’ve known her since I was four or five years old. She’s the kind of friend you have that no longer is a friend, is a sister. And part of that is we’ve known eachother for so long. Otherwise, we would never be friends. I mean, I’m vegan. She hunts like, you know, like, yeah, like, yeah, kind of difference. I’m tall. She’s really short, you know. And she’s actually retiring after 20 years. Serving as a master sergeant. Is that, am I saying that? Is that a thing in the airforce?

Linda: Yes, it is a thing. It is a thing?

Julie:Yeah, she’s retiring after 20 years service this this week.

Linda: Oh, wonderful. Well, when you talk to her, tell her thank her so much from me for serving in the world’s best Air Force.

Priscilla: I’m happy to say, I sent this recording to her as a gift and it meant a lot to the both of us.
So in the effort to honor your time.
Are you ready? Can I jump in?

Linda: Yep. We can jump in.

Priscilla: Awesome. Linda, who is someone that inspires you? And why?

Linda: So when I saw this question, my first question was, does it have to be a person because if it doesn’t have to be a person, I’d say my dog. And and she inspires me, because she’s cute, she’s trusting, she’s friendly. And she just wants to be with me without any expectations. So that’s an inspiration. But if you want a serious answer, I would say it would have to be my parents and my husband’s parents. And, you know, they were just part of that greatest generation that took us through the Depression and World War Two, you know, their resilience, their patriotism, their sacrifice, their family values, their work ethic, and their tenacity. But all through all of that, at least for these two couples, their sense of humor never waned, and they were able to see
humor in even the worst times. And, and, and raise raised me in, in a way that that I am very inspired by. So unfortunately, they’re both passed away. And so I don’t think I ever told them when they were alive, that they were an inspiration to me at that time. You know, when they’re alive they’re just your parents, and you sort of, in some respects, take them for granted. So anyway, there’s that answer to that one.

Priscilla: And I love that answer. I love both answers. I consider both of those answers very serious, we can all aspire to be as wonderful as dogs.

Linda: And I hope when I die, I come back as my dog because she is spoiled rotten, so
she deserves it. She is more spoiled than my grandkids, which is a stretch. So.

Priscilla: And I would say I would offer to you, Linda, that your parents and your in laws probably knew that they were inspirations, maybe you didn’t say it, but I can, I can tell by your mannerisms, the joy, the exuberance that comes through when you talk, and just by you know, the work ethic that you have, that you lead by example, you showed them by the person that you became that, you know, they they rubbed off on you.

Linda: Yeah, they certainly do. Good traits and bad rights.

Priscilla: Right, that interesting. And what is interesting is when we tell ourselves, we’re not going to take on those traits, and suddenly we realize it’s too late, we’re already doing it.

Linda: Well, that’s what all women say, oh my god, I’m my mother. I’ve turned into my mother, right. And in my wildest dreams, I would be my mother. She was amazing. She was an amazing little feisty, five foot two Irish woman who had a temper that was no tomorrow, but just incredible. Just an incredible woman.

Priscilla: Linda, I love that. And I love hearing that as you know, becoming a new mother for the second time. I remind myself that I’m giving so much to my children, but that no one is ever going to love me the way that they do. And I even after I’m far gone, you know, the love will never go away. Even if we’re you know, even if I’m in an argument with my mother, and I still want to call her when I’m not feeling well. Or, you know, she’s still the person I want to go to. Yes, yeah, there’s no there’s no more honorary title, I think.

Linda: Yeah, well, they can also make you want to pull your hair out. So there’s that part of it as well.

Priscilla: 100%

Priscilla: Okay, um, what song are you singing at karaoke?

Linda: Well, this will probably not be a surprise to you. It would be loyal, brave and true by Christina Aguilera. Which I guess it’s from a movie. I’m not a movie buff, so I don’t know, but I heard it on the on the radio. Yes, I still listen to the radio. And it just struck me as maybe a life story for me. So that’s what I’m singing, but I can’t sing. So really, nobody would listen if I was singing it.

Priscilla: So but would you sing it karaoke? Have you sung it karaoke? Or do you sing in the shower? You know, I mean, where do you sing? Or do you sing?

Linda: I sing in the car when no one can hear me. Because I can’t sing. And I you know, I can say I am a great singer in my own mind. But I know I cannot sing. But I love music. And so yes, I do sing, but not when I’m around anybody who can hear. And yes, I’ve karaoke a long time ago, and hopefully it’s not ever had been recorded anywhere.

Priscilla: I mean, I’d like to see it, but but I can appreciate what you’re saying. And yes, it’s so therapeutic to sing out loud, to belt out loud sometimes. Linda, I gotta say, I haven’t heard that song but I’m gonna make it a priority.

Linda: Oh, please do? Yes. It’s the I think you, you may find that why it’s not a surprising answer for me. When you listen to the song.

Priscilla: Ok, so I looked the song up (it is in the movie Mulan) and I’d love to play it for you here, but I don’t want to break any copyright permission- so I’ll read you a few lines to get us all us to speed:
War is not freedom
Over my shoulder
I see a clearer view
All for my family
Reason I’m breathing
Everything to lose
Should I ask myself in the water
What a warrior would do?
Tell me, underneath my armor
Am I loyal, brave and true?

Priscilla: Okay, now we’re digging in a little bit deeper here. What is your biggest fear?

Linda: Well, that Yeah. So this is a bit of a weighty answer. And I’ll I’ll say that up front, I think my biggest fear, and I’m not afraid of much, but my biggest fear is that these 16 wonderful grandchildren that I have, will inherit a nation that is in decline, without the values in the freedoms that I work so hard to protect and serve for. And, what I find about that answer is, while I have served and I continue to serve in my own way, in some respects, I feel powerless to do much about it, as I watch world events around me, particularly, and we won’t get into the discussion in Afghanistan, but particularly when I see what’s going on in Afghanistan, and the fact that I served there is a real fear, and all I can do is try and instill my values and my my ethics and my
the freedoms, you know, my my understanding of what freedom means to me to my grandchildren, and maybe, maybe they can have an impact.

Priscilla: It’s certainly a challenge.
I often think about that when I’m, you know, my husband and I have been through a lot. He’s Nigerian, I’m from the States, we were separated for immigration issues. When we had our first son and you know, People would always be so apologetic to me and my story. And I would say I mean, you know, yeah, it’s it’s not ideal, but go back 100 years and I had to travel by like, ship in the bottom and die of scurvy on the way, you know, go back 50 years, I couldn’t even walk in the street with him.

So, you know, and right now you we were separated by an ocean and worlds and culture and language and all these things. And yet we could come together and you know, it’s just remarkable how far we’ve come in some ways. Yeah.

Linda: Yeah. That’s for sure.

Priscilla: What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

Linda: You know, of all your questions, this was the hardest one because I don’t consider myself a very daring person. So I think if I was going to be a daring person, the one thing I’ve always wanted to do was skydive. But somebody would have to push me out of the plane to do that. And plus my husband, him being a pilot, he would not be very happy because he says, you know, it’s not smart to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. So I guess I just don’t consider myself ever having done anything very daring. So I don’t have much of an answer for that. So I was I would skydive, I guess and

Priscilla: Why skydive? What about it? What about it is attractive to you?

Linda: It’s just like the freedom of flying through the air, you know, with you know, from way up high and the view of our of our world and how beautiful it probably is and the exhilaration of it. And
I just and maybe in you know, my life has been a round flying. I mean, I’m married to a pilot that was in the Air Force, I didn’t fly in the air force, but that was around flying, you know, for 30 for almost 30 years of my life. So and now I fly everywhere to you know, give or take COVID So.
So I just think that idea of you know, being in the air like that, and the views and what you can see and how beautiful it would be.

Priscilla: I can appreciate that Linda, I jumped off. I did not skydive, but I did jump off the highest bungee bridge in the world here in South Africa a few years.

Linda: Oh my god, I wouldn’t even I couldn’t even do that.

Priscilla: I thought so it was gonna have to push me and I’m not afraid of heights. And I always was excited to be able to do this. I never really thought much about it. I was like, Oh, just actually, I was eating breakfast at this hostel and I overheard people talking about going and I’m like, Can I tag along? They’re like, yeah, vans coming in 20 minutes, I ran and got my stuff. I got on the bridge, and then it was my time to go. And I all of a sudden I panicked. I thought, Oh my God, nobody here even knows my name. Nobody knows that I’m here. If I die, like, um, and it was it was very exhilarating. I had a moment where, you know, they keep telling me to go and I’m just I can’t even say anything. And right before I did jump, I was down on my knees praying out loud.

Linda: Yeah. Oh, yeah. No, I mean, because it’s, you know, you’re trusting somebody to have a safe bungee. You know, you’re you’re putting your Life in their hands.

Priscilla: If not your current profession, what would you be doing?

I would be raising and training helping dogs for wounded warriors.
I am just such an advocate for our people who has served and whether they be combat wounded or have other scars from their military service. I and I’m such a dog person and the healing power of dogs. I would be doing that.

Priscilla: That is an awesome answer, Linda, I love that.
Will you tell me please about a life changing or life affirming moment?

Linda: You know, I was thinking about how to answer this. And you know, at my age, it seems like your whole life seems to be a series of life changing life defining moments. And so I was trying to reflect back on okay, what, what would be that one thing and, and I think it would be my decision when I was 18 years old to join the United States Marine Corps. And it was an odd decision at the time, I can tell you, my father was not extremely happy about it. It was 1974 it was such a challenging time to be a woman in the military, let alone in the in the Marine Corps, right on the heels of Vietnam. But that decision, and that choice that I made, really defined me for the rest of my life. I was growing up in Kentucky. I loved as we talked about earlier, I loved my parents, but I never quote want to go to college, I didn’t see the value in education. So but how would I have ever known what my calling was to serve or what opportunities I would have in the military, if I hadn’t have made that largely uninformed decision when I was 18 years old.

Priscilla: I feel like that could coincide with the most daring thing you’ve ever done, and then you try to tell me that you don’t do any daring things. And yet, you are 18 not just joining the military, but joining the Marine Corps, like you know, go bigger go home. And like you said on the heels of Vietnam and also just being a woman. I mean, that’s remarkable. And and I think very daring.

Linda: Well there’s something to be said for being naive too. So you know, you just kind of, hey, this sounds cool. Let’s see, let’s go spend your first Christmas ever away from home at Parris Island, South Carolina and see how you like life as a Marine, you know, so, but it was wonderful. It was just, you know, I mean, it’s like one of those, those things that you sort of have to go through and you may not enjoy it at the time, but you learn so much and it’s about transforming your existence from being self centered to outward centered. There’s things, there’s callings, there’s needs, there’s missions bigger than yourself. And how do you find that you find that by, you know, putting yourself out there, and to me, I was 18, I didn’t know much about anything. I just knew that quote, “I never want to go to college” and so two master’s degrees in a bachelor degree later here, I am just never want to go to college. Right.

Priscilla: So well, you had to find your way there. You took a path less taken and it’s it sounds to me like your naivety paid off.

Linda: Yeah, I think sometimes it does. I mean, you know, sometimes I find that when I go into a situation, I, I don’t go in blindly. But but I don’t, I try not to be absorbed by the the noise around me and to be focused on what this mission or this need is that I’m going to serve and be called to do. And I think that was the case of the Marine Corps, there was just something about it. I mean, I was always attracted to challenge, right. And maybe that’s why I wasn’t so enamored with school. My parents were not college graduates. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And they, they were, but they were very hard working Americans. They were very patriotic. And those two values that they instilled on me, I think is what drove me to serve in the military. The value of education came later, based on what I wanted to be able to provide for my family, and what resources and how I wanted them to be able to grow up maybe with some more things than I had. We certainly weren’t poor when I was growing up. But we were definitely, you know, my, my dad was a salesman, so depending on yearrs and his success, there were very lean years, and there were very good years. And, you know, knowing how your your memory serves you the lean years seems more prevalent than the the very good years. But I’m sure that that’s not the case. But in hindsight, that’s how it appears to me.

Priscilla: Yeah, and you know, it, it probably served you to have some time in between school, you know, to kind of find your way back to it. I know, I had a lot of time between higher education. And when I came, I was ready. I showed up which a lot of people I think when they came, they don’t know how to, they don’t know themselves enough to know their direction.

Linda: So yeah, Priscilla, you’re exactly right. I mean, I, I got my bachelor’s, I earned my bachelor’s degree, one day shy of my 35th birthday. No. 31st birthday. Yes. 31st birthday. So you know, I mean, when you’re an older student like that, I had two kids already, you know, that. You’re giving up a lot. You know, I had to have it was a very big financial sacrifice, right? Luckily, because it all goes back to that decision to join the Marine Corps. I had wonderful. They were called GI benefits at the time education benefits. And if I hadn’t done that, if I hadn’t had that, because I was still under the Vietnam era education bill. There’s no way I could have gone I couldn’t have provided for my family.

Priscilla: Yeah, it sounds like the journey that you’ve been on was just right for you.

Linda: Well, I think in hindsight, it was when you go through it, you can’t it’s kind of like you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Priscilla: Exactly. You’re going in blind and sometimes thinking, what the hell am I doing? And then you see how the puzzle pieces were fitting together or maybe you don’t and then you know, you miss out on opportunities in life or you know, you’re kind of stuck in a space of regret and resentment, but I can tell for your energy and enthusiasm, that you’re able to see how you got where you are today and how it was your journey.

Linda: You know, and I think at the end of the day, as you go through a military career, you’re kind of told what your assignments are going to be and that kind of thing. You can influence them. So I don’t want to just say you’re kind of along for the ride. You influence them by your performance and the things that you accomplish and how you’re able to serve and how your leadership traits and things like that, but largely, you know, they kind of sort of tell you what you’re going to do. And then you have these opportunities that pop up that are select opportunities. And I feel like as I reflect through my career, there were several of those that I at the time really wanted. I was like, Oh my God, this would be so cool, if I could work for this general or if I could have this assignment or if I could go do this thing over here and I didn’t get those things I didn’t get that assignment. I wasn’t hired to work for this channel or whatever the case may be. And every step you’re amazingly disappointed, but when I reflect back, for every one of those I didn’t get something better came along. And so at some point, you have to say there’s a reason why things happen the way they do I influence them as much as I can, but there’s a reason why I didn’t get this and that’s because this opportunity I got instead and how wonderful it was, and if I’d done this I couldn’t have done that. And I really like doing that. And so I’m so grateful I actually didn’t get this, whatever it was.

Priscilla: That so resonates with me. I feel like my life has been a series of fortunate mishaps or something. I don’t know how I would put it, I might think about that more, but where I set out an intention, or I set out a desire and I got more than I ever could have anticipated and that’s helped me to let go a little bit. I think of control and say, you know, hey, I’ll put out this intention, but I’m someone who expects miracles you know, even better than what I plan to happen, and it’s a pretty fortunate way to live.

Linda: Yeah, I have I have a saying I like I’d rather be surprised than disappointed. And so I think it comes with humility. I mean, I think at the end of the day, and it’s just me there’s a difference between humility and hard work. And so I think you work hard and you do accomplishments and you’re recognized and all of those things are great because of your work ethic and your values and the mission that’s called you to go do it. But to me, you bring your humility along with that, and there’s no expectation of recognition and there’s no expectation of reward or whatever. And when it comes It’s always such a surprise and so humbling to begin with. Then it goes back to our discussion about why I didn’t want to do this crazy podcast, I’m like, Oh my gosh, I mean, why would I want you to do a podcast and who the heck would want to listen to me, but how humbling it is to even be asked to do it.

Priscilla: Well, and I have certainly enjoyed listening to you and so much so that I’m going to throw in one more question.

Linda: It’s not on the sheet!

Laughter

Priscilla: What would you like people to know about you, except for what they can maybe read on your resume, or I guess this question is coming from when you said that you were inspired by your parents and your in laws and you don’t know if you ever got to tell them and you told me the ways that they inspired you and then I thought, I wonder what she would hope that her grandchildren would say about her?

Linda: So I’ll tell you kind of tongue in cheek and then we can talk about a little bit more seriously. I can tell you what my grandchildren will say, “how does this ditzy grandma who dresses up at Christmas and this crazy Christmas sweater that she’s been wearing for 35 years and sings Let it snow, let it snow, starting in November, ever get to be a One-Star General? How did that possibly happen? Because that cannot be my ditzy grandma who seems spacey and fun loving. How could she ever been a One-Star General.”

Priscilla: I need to unpack that because I am crazy about Christmas, like super crazy about Christmas. My favorite musician is a man named Sufjan Stevens and he has recorded something like 10 hours of Christmas music. I listened to it all year round. I cry it almost every Christmas movie even the funny ones like Elf. I just I love Christmas carols. So I just have to tell you that I feel very passionate about Christmas as well and I also need to know more about singing Let It Snow. Is that your favorite Christmas song and do you really sing it aloud for them?

Linda: I do, I do. So back to this whether I karaoke, I should have caveat it that except for Let it snow. I do sing Let It Snow out loud. My husband looks at me askance because he has banded from my singing until November. And then he’s like, okay, you can start. I love it because I love what it is. You know, it’s just catchy. The other thing is I hate cold weather and I love snow. So how do you hate cold weather and love snow? I

Priscilla: Exactly. I couldn’t put it better myself.

Linda: Yeah, so I’m just one of those people that sits in front of the fireplace and loves to look outside of the snow. But please don’t make me go out in it. Yeah, you don’t have to function in it like to actually make a living and go out into it. You know, drive through it or shovel it or whatever the case may be it’s or bundle your kids up. I think the reason why I started hating cold weather was when I was a working mom and the amount of time I had to spend getting my kids ready to go to daycare in the summer for this exorbitant of time. Yeah the amount of time in the winter it was like a half an hour difference that I have lost sleep and so yeah.

Priscilla: Did you ever have a Christmas Story moment where then you get them bundled and they have to go potty?

Linda: Yeah and they just had to hold it. That’s just the kind of mama I was.

Priscilla: You can go to school at de-layer, okay. (laughter)

Linda: Yeah, exactly. You know what you should have told me that, you know, before I got five layers on. Yeah, next time you’ll remember to pee. I mean, it’s kind of like going on that road trip. Does anybody need to go potty now? Okay, so you get in the car. The first thing is you got to go pee. Sorry. You’re gonna have to wait. I asked you five times before we left the house. So obviously you can see there’s certain things that I don’t tolerate.

Priscilla: Okay, and you said you were going to give me the more cheeky answer, so there’s a more serious answer somewhere in there.

Linda: Yes. Okay. So I guess I would say that, and I’ve tried to talk that mostly to my grand daughters about my story, although there’s lessons from my grandsons in my story as well and I think at the end of the day, what I want my grandchildren to know is that you make decisions. In my view, you make decisions along your life that truly put roadblocks in your own way. Other people don’t put roadblocks in your own way. You have a way of putting up your own barriers to success by some of the decisions you make. And do you have the resiliency and wherewithal to recognize that and work through it? So when I reflect back on my life going in the Marines when I was at a meeting and marrying a fellow Marine when I was 19, having my first child when I was 19, leaving the Marines bawling my eyes out because that was my life. I was going to stay in the Marines forever be the highest ranking enlisted Marine and stay and that was my calling and my mission, but my child came along and there’s a whole separate discussion about the decision to stay in, the decision to get out, but back in the 70s you had to get out if you got pregnant. I was one of the first women Marines they allowed to stay in. But the challenge of doing that in the 70s and being a mother was overwhelming and I was young and I just didn’t feel like I could do both even 50% Right. So that then decision to get out and then work as a secretary putting my ex husband, so there’s a lesson I always tell my grandchildren. I work for seven years bettering the life of someone else instead of my life but that’s okay because that sacrifice and putting my ex husband through school than putting myself through school when the marriage fell apart, and then going and talking to the Air Force recruiter and having him look at me like I had two heads when I said I want to be an officer in the Air Force. And he said, you know, you’re 31 you know, you have two kids and while I wasn’t divorced at the time, for all intents and purposes, I was a single parent, having him look at me like you must be crazy. And then pulling out my transcript with a 3.89 GPA with math and technology classes and having him say, “Well, hey, you know, we need computer programmers. Maybe you do have a fit” To then taking a chance on me and selected me to go to Officer Training School, graduating number one in my class from officer training school, but leaving my children for three months with my sister, who took them as their agent and surrogate mother if you will, with her two other kids in 1000 square foot house and one bathroom so I could be successful and concentrate on going in the Air Force and doing well and in my first role in the Air Force, which was to go through officer training school, and then 27 years later graduating as a as a One-Star. There’s a lot of stories packed in the middle of all that, but that’s what I would want them to know that you know, I made a lot of decisions along the way that were probably not really good ones, but do you blame someone else or do you say okay, that I own that that was my decision, and I’m going to recover? And here’s what I’m gonna do and maybe not knowing I had I mean, I knew I think I wanted to stay in the airforce when I went in my call to serve. And in fact, I had rejoined the Marine Corps, but it was in the reserve. So think of your traditional reservists to those and so it’s, you know, one weekend, a month or two weeks in the summer, and they started talking to me about it direct commission as I was graduating, but I realized that I really miss wearing the uniform every single day and serving my country. Well how could I do that and still be a good mother to my now eight year old daughter and 10 year old son? And I felt like that that air force would be a better fit for me not because it’s easier, but just because the norms and the values and the culture is different. And you would expect that for the different type of missions that those two military services have and then from there retiring you know, I retired from the Air Force as a one star and for the first year which is this this is never good to reflect back on what it but I really missed it. I retired for a variety of reasons, which is a whole nother discussion and then to see where I am today. Oh my goodness. I serve on board of directors. I have my own little small business. You know, I’m doing cyber security consulting with some pretty important companies who would have thought and all of that. I know that sounds crazy. All of that from a decision when I was 18 to go in the Marine Corps.

Priscilla: To elaborate on Linda’s comment, she currently serves on the board of PNC Bank, Transamerica and Operation Homefront a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to build strong, stable and secure military families so that they can thrive in the communities they’ve worked so hard to protect. She’s a former Chief Information Security Officer for a major defense industrial base contractor and a retired brigadier general for the United States Air Force with 27 years of cyber and technology military experience.

It’s really inspiring Linda. And also it’s causing me to reflect on the question again, that I asked you about daring things. And it’s funny how so often, we think, daring things and you want to jump out of a plane or bungee jump or those kinds of things. But those things are so momentary, you know, you do it once and they’re over. But the type of things that you’re talking about, that I consider really daring, like, you know, sacrificing your wishes for your children’s betterment, sacrificing your time for somebody that you love, so that they could improve their situation, going back in looking at a recruiter who was looking down at you are looking at you like you’re crazy, and going after what you wanted, after so much time and proving yourself and being willing to be flexible, and try new things, and put yourself in new positions and get new opportunities through your life. Those are also, like really daring, like, get up every day and like, live sometimes in fear, you know, and like, still show up with all those uncertainties to still show up. That’s pretty daring stuff, Linda.

Linda: You know, there’s no guarantees in life. I mean, I think that was one of my dad’s sayings. There’s no guarantees in life. So what are you going to do throughout your life to, you know, make an impact, to have influence to have children and to bring them up in the way that you think better serves them and better serve society. I mean, at the end of the day, we’re just one spoken this wheel of the world. And people are called to do different things. And I think in some respects, I know I am very old fashioned when I say this, but there’s got to be more to life than just yourself, and how much money you make or how big of a house you live in, or all of those things are important goals, don’t get me wrong. I mean, it’s nice to make money and makes the world go round. But it can’t be solely about that. And it can’t be solely about you and how you feel today. It’s about you and how you’re needed and how you make others feel today, in my mind.

Priscilla: I just want to go back to the beginning when you said that, “why would I be on a podcast? Or what did I have to say?” And how I think the greatest podcasts, or the ones that I appreciate the most are ones that tell stories, because I’m really all about storytelling. It’s just part of something that’s been passed down to me and my family. And there are so many times during this like three or four times you said, “Well, that’s another story or a whole other story by itself.” Linda you have lots of stories, lots of podcasts in you.

Linda: That’s only because I’m old. I have lots of stories to tell, because Im old, so you have lots of stories you gather up through your life.

Priscilla: Yeah, well, it makes for very interesting conversation. So I think you were downplaying that a little bit really open the conversation. And, you know, they had I think it’s Denmark, I don’t know, I read something recently where they’re doing these libraries, but they’re people like you go and you sit at a table, and there’ll be a person sitting at each table. And you can go in and sit at each table. And I don’t know if it’s just a one-time thing, but each person will tell you a story about themselves. And they’re called like living libraries or something.

Linda: Oh, what a great idea. Oh, my mother would have been wonderful. Oh my god, she’s so you do have things that you remember and things also that you regret. And I think one of my regrets is not listening to my mother more about her stories, you know, having brought up in the Great Depression, you know, going through World War Two, she was always a little edgy being the person who really drove the family and supported my dad who had a lot of common sense, but not a lot of formal education. And she was very savvy and very smart. And when I was in Afghanistan for almost six months, my husband, God bless him, and my golden retriever went and stayed with my mom which we used to laugh about who should get the Bronze Star, me or my husband for living with his mother in law for six months. But every night he would come home from flying or he’d come back from a four day trip with the airlines. And my mom spoiled rotten. She had pasta for him, he’s Italian and, and he would sit there and listen to her stories until like one or two o’clock in the morning, usually with a bourbon or some kind of beverage that my mom would be drinking, because that was just the culture that she grew up in. And he heard so much more than I ever did. But I guess the good thing is now he can tell me and so occasionally, we’ll say, hey, you know, I’ll say, hey, so when my mom told you about XY and Z, or the horse that she had, or where she did this, what did she say? And he has a really good memory, and he can pass those along to me.

Priscilla: And I’m sure it’s, you know, it’s not all the monumental things. It’s the little things like knowing what she would have sung at karaoke or something. And so it brings me joy to think that you know, for your reservations of this conversation, you know, that the technology, we have this, I get to send you a recording of this, and maybe you’ll harness some stories that your children and grandchildren will hear.

Linda: Oh, yeah, well, my husband’s downstairs Priscilla, I’m just sitting there about a half an hour before and I’m looking at him and he goes, Linda, just go up there. And I’m like, I just don’t want to.

Priscilla: Well, was it as bad as you thought?

Linda: No, no, but I find it for me, it’s uncomfortable talking about myself, I’d rather talk about these wonderful 16 grandkids I have and my four now wonderful children. And I know our time is almost up. But I would close with another thought. And it’s an odd answer to a question that I’ve been asked before about what are the most important decisions you’ve made in your life? And, and I think marrying my husband is one of those. And I’ve been given that question as it relates to my career. And people always say, Well, how could that be an important decision as it relates to your career and your aspirations. And to me, it’s about who you choose, and who chooses you directly impacts how much support for lack of support you get throughout your life, on your goals and your impact and the things that you want to achieve and the impact you want to have. And so the man that I’m married to, after going through a horrible first experience at marriage, and then none of us are perfect, we’re humans, and we’re fallible, and we have our share of differences, of course, but he brought into the marriage of wonderful now woman and a special needs son, who I’ve been in his life since he was 10. And my life would not be as full if I didn’t have them in my life, and so had never referred to them as my stepchildren. They’ve been my children all along. He had custody of them. So when we got married, they came to live with me, and I just feel so blessed. And so sometimes the most important decision to make, I think, with regard to your life is on the personal side, not on the professional side.

Priscilla: And Linda, that’s a great closing because that’s actually why I started this podcast.

Linda: Well, thank you so much for asking me to do this. And for the time I did in hindsight, enjoy it.

Priscilla: The pleasure and the gratitude is mine, Linda, thank you.

Music

Priscilla: Thank you for joining me. This is a bi-weekly podcast, but we’ll be celebrating our launch with an extra episode next week. We will hear from Global Procurement Officer, Board Member, and Diversity & Inclusion Leader, Purvee Kondall, about tolerance and inclusion and why for her, it’s a matter of life and death. If you are a member and you’d like to be featured on an episode of Voices of Athena please reach out to me at [email protected]
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