KDCHI SISTER SOLDIERS: They sacrifice their lives and answer the call of duty.

KDCHI SISTER SOLDIERS: They sacrifice their lives and answer the call of duty.

by Gina Garcia, VP of Public Affairs for Kappa Delta Chi Sorority Inc.

You may not know their names, but they sacrifice daily for you and your family. They shoot guns, endure sleepless nights, run for miles with 90lb bags on their backs and witness catastrophes we as civilians are blind to. These women are bonded to their comrades in a way that only fellow soldiers can fully appreciate. They are Latina, have families and loved ones back home, hold the values we've all come to know, only these women have combat boots in their closet next to their going out high heels. Each sister endured her own individual struggles to walk the line they have either serving in the military as they do now or have in the past. The military is a life of uncertainty as to where you'll be stationed, who you answer to and whether you could be called to Afghanistan, Iraq, to the Haitian earthquake aftermath or to the next unknown world-impacting event. Kappa Delta Chi, meet your SISTER SOLDIERS.


Denise Gonzalez, Alumnae in Washington, D.C. who's since moved to El Paso, TX

"I'm a lot stronger than I realized!"

Denise Gonzalez is a 23 year old alumnae of the Alpha Zeta Chapter in Las Vegas, Nevada. At 16, she was and A-plus, student highly involved in high school athletic programs like soccer and track-and-field. During her junior year, as other kids talked about applying to college, she knew her parents couldn't afford to send her. As the oldest of the family and the first generation college student, she found herself lost and alone when it came to college applications and finding scholarships. "I didn't even know what financial aid was," says Gonzalez. "So one day in class I heard a classmate discussing boot camp. It piqued my interest, but then he said the one thing that solidified my decision to join the Army. They would pay 100% of college." So Denise enlisted at 17. "During boot camp, I was terrified that I had to shower in front of 30 other ladies. I was raised to respect my body so taking off my clothes in front of anyone, even other women, was against my values. So I woke up at 3am to shower alone." Denise finished boot camp the summer before her senior year of high school and enlisted in the Army National Guard while getting her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

In the army she learned Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, hand-on-hand combat, how to shoot an M16 assault rifle, launch grenades, to maintain body and mind strength under stressful environments, how to lead and follow, and how to serve her country as an American Soldier. "I'm a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. Not of physical strength but of mental strength." As a Latina, she sometimes feels caught between two cultures. "I feel I have to work twice as hard to prove myself and when I first told my family I was joining the military, they thought it was a joke that a female could even be in the Army. Some uncles believed that the military was not a place for a lady." Denise says there's much sacrifice that comes with the guaranteed employment, good benefits and free health care. "If I want to fly home for the weekend, I need to ask permission, fill out papers, and it comes down to whether my chain of command gives me permission to leave. Most importantly I've sacrificed being with loved ones like my family, friends, and my boyfriend. Although that is something that's affected me tremendously, I'm so grateful to have my KDChi sisters in the area." Despite the sacrifice, Denise would never change the path that she chose and loves what she does.

Gonzalez is a Registered Nurse stationed in Washington, D.C. at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Walter Reed is the main hospital where wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan return and she's seen her share of patients. As a clinical staff nurse, she's responsible for planning, implementing and evaluating patient care activities for young adults to geriatric patients on a multi-specialty, surgical ward. The ward consists of transplant, urology, gynecology, radiation/oncology, ophthalmology and plastic surgery patients. In March, she celebrates seven years in the military. Her goal is to become a 66G, which is a labor and delivery nurse and then get her masters to become either a midwife or a nurse practitioner. Denise and two of her younger brothers serve in the military and are making her family proud.





Kelly Cruz, Alumnae formerly stationed in Seoul, South Korea

"I can endure...no matter what!"

Introducing Kelly Cruz, an Alumnae from the Pi Chapter at the University of Texas at Austin. She served for four years beginning in April 2002 in Mannheim, Germany as part of the 44th Signal Battalion. She was the Radio Operator/Operations Clerk/Network Administrator for CENTRIXS. She joined the military for a personal challenge and in her military journey she learned who she really is. "I'm more patient than ever before. I have such respect for people who wear the uniform, and who literally put their lives on the line every day. The Soldiers on the battlefield are amazing. Discipline is necessary, and war is real."

In the military, Kelly has traveled the world to Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, Vienna, France, England, China and Korea and along the way she always had faith in the Kappa Delta Chi support system. "Regardless of where I was in the world or where I was on the battlefield, I knew my Sisters supported me." Along with her KDChi sisters whom she lovingly refers to as her "extended family," Kelly's family was extremely supportive, attended her graduations, sent care packages, and made phone calls. There's nothing like having the touches of home to make you feel appreciated." She follows in the footsteps of her dad, four uncles and two cousins who also served in the military and she sees enlisting as not a form of sacrifice, but more of an obligation. In fact, Kelly feels strongly that everyone should serve at least two years in the military to fully understand and respect the freedoms we have.

One of the fondest memories Kelly shares is when she volunteered for a Humanitarian mission in Afghanistan. "We collected medical supplies, clothing, school supplies, and other basic necessities for the kids in this particular village. The expressions on the villager's faces were of gratitude and sincere thanks. To be part of something great in a desert is more rewarding than anything." Upon learning of other sisters serving in the military she shares, "it's refreshing to see other Latinas wear the uniform."

While Kelly has been out of the military for three years, she feels fortunate to be afforded career opportunities working alongside the Soldiers in the Department of the Army. Kelly received her Masters in Public Administration from MD University College in 2009, her bachelors of Social Work in 2000 and is currently a human resource specialist with the Army in Seoul, South Korea.  

There was so much feedback in the first edition of this story, we couldn't possibly let it go without shining the light further on an additional couple of sisters who lives their days in service for you, me and our family and friends. Kappa Delta Chi, meet another SISTER SOLDIER.

Lisa Corella, Delta Alum in Tucson, AZ

"A happy soldier is a good soldier"

She's just completed a stint serving at Ft. Meade, Maryland. She was the Acting Non Commissioned Officer in Charge (ANCOIC). She ran the operating room at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center and was in charge of four rooms handling a range of cases from plastic surgery to vascular to ortho. She was responsible for 12 soldiers and helped them with their military, personal and goal-oriented lives. She believes "a happy soldier is a good soldier" and regularly administered care to civilians of the military family as well, including family members and retirees. "Basic Training changed me. I knew then that I would be able to do anything that God put in front of me. My body and mind can be pushed beyond the mental and physical limits that most people have set for themselves," shared Corella. She joined in  June 2003 because "I wanted to take care of my brothers and sisters who put their lives on the line for our country, for the people who fight to give others the right to free speech." In the military, she's learned it takes a diverse group to make things work. "The color of your skin, your gender, your religion or the rank on your chest has nothing to do with who you can be. The military is the greatest organization and the only one to instill a sense of family and true teamwork."
 
As for advice to others interested in possibly joining the military, Lisa says "do it if you really want to. Don't do it because you think it'll be something fun to do or for the educational opportunity. There are many hardships and I always tell people that the military is what you make of it and people either love it or hate it. I love the Army and would do it all over again if given the option." She says there are some things civilians (non military) misunderstand about the military and she wants others to know soldiers don't serve for money or glory, they support their brothers and sisters in arms. "People think soldiers are horrible for killing "innocent people", what they don't understand is when you are out there its either you or them. Those "innocent people" are the ones trying to kill us. We aren't fighting our own chosen war and over politics, we are fighting to stay alive."
 
As a woman in the military, Corella says there are challenges that every woman will face at some point in their career be it military or civilian. "There is always that male who will try to pull rank and try to convince you that they want you to be their "girl". Sometimes if you don't go along with it they will try to get you back, but as long as you are doing what you are supposed to do and your actions speak for you, everything will be ok." Lisa hopes to continue being a role model in the military and shares "if I can help a soldier overcome an obstacle in their lives and help them succeed, I've done my job well." Some of the most challenging times Lisa endured were at boot camp. "I hardly slept, I had two minutes to scarf down my food. I would shove everything I could into a slice of bread and then shove it in my mouth! We ran for miles, up and down hills, through thick sand, forest and rain. We'd shoot at the firing range for days until even the weakest soldier became a skilled, precision shooter. By hand, we'd pick up leaves from the ground and dig the trenches around the building, and if we moved too fast there would be a drill sergeant there to dump out our bags and kick the items in the trench to give us more work!" She gushes about following in her fathers' military footsteps (see pic of her dad) and shares that it's the most amazing experience she's ever known. When asked if she'd consider visiting Iraq or Afghanistan on a tour, she'd go in a heartbeat. "If I had to do it all over again I would, with the exception of the gas chamber from boot camp! That, I could definitely live without!" Since leaving her post in late 2009 at Fort Meade, she's since gotten married and moved to Arizona and just re-enlisted for another 6 years.







A special thank you to sister soldier Juanita Rodriguez, an Alpha Alum in Lubbock, TX who also serves in the army and who was not available to be interviewed at press time

 

SOLDIER WIVES ALSO SACRIFICE

Families are without a doubt the foundation that makes for a  strong and successful Soldier and often times they are forgotten despite the many hardships as well. Who can debate the difficulty of sending a loved one off to war, to deploy overseas or to boot camp alone while leaving the family behind.

Diana Reynolds, Beta alumna, pregnant with her second child (who happens to be a girl by the way, congrats!) is the wife of a Matthew Reynolds, a soldier who's served in the military for the past 16 years. She's one example of a KDChi sister who also serves the military in her own unique way and is one facet of the military life that's often left out of the spotlight.

Diana's husband has served for 10 years in active duty (16 years total as he signed up with the reserves at 17) in Fort Campbell, KY with the 101st Airborne Division. For the first time, his entire division is gearing up to deploy together to Afghanistan.   "While I never had to go to basic with my husband, I did go with him at 1am to pick up Soldiers and assist family members in need while he was in command. Spouses also have to be able to pick up and go whenever the Army calls. Often times it's difficult to find jobs because you are having to move all the time. One of Michelle Obama's initiatives was to help military spouses with employment needs. The soldiers have Veterans Affairs benefits and military retirement to fall back on once they are done. Spouses on the other hand according to Diana, have to switch jobs on such a regular basis. "I'm thankful for his benefits because I'm not able to stay at one particular job long enough to secure retirement benefits from one employer." 

On marrying a soldier: I didn't think. I was in love and had absolutely no idea what I was in for. Living in Houston, I was never exposed to anything military except for what I saw on the news.  I had cousins in the military but they were reservist or in the national guard... which is very different from active duty life. 

What are your most terrifying fears about being married to a soldier? Of course it's deployments.  Deployments have been the downfall of so many marriages but they are also just a part of the package with Army life.  The great thing is that the Army has really stepped up and created programs to help families before, during and after deployments.  

Are there perks to being a military spouse? Perks are the discounts!  I get discounts and clothing stores and we've been able to save a bunch of money when we travel. Many hotels, movie theaters and museums offer discounted rates for active duty military and their families. Another great perk is an account created through Military One Source that gives me money for school or any trainings I'd like to attend to make me more marketable in the workforce.  It's not income based so anyone qualifies... it's FREE money!  I know I'm about to show my age now, but we also get free quality health care.  It never really mattered to me before but now that I have a baby and another on the way, it's been GREAT!  

The most challenging thing about being a soldier's spouse that doesn't involve war? Realizing that depending on your husband's job/position/leadership role, he is also accountable for the overall well-being of his soldiers. It's not like the civilian world where you have a boss and they just look at your job performance.  In the Army, Officers are responsible for all aspects of taking care of Soldiers and their families.  It's not just a 9-5 job...Often times it's difficult to find jobs because you are having to move all the time.  One of Michelle Obama's initiatives was to help military spouses with employment needs.  The thing is, our husbands have the VA benefits and military retirement to fall back on once they are done... spouses have had to switch jobs so many times, we're unable to secure retirement benefits from one employer. 

What sort of support is there for soldier spouses? So much support is available! Not only are their discount programs for spouses of deployed Soldiers, but there are also support groups available as well. Spouses of deployed Soldiers get priority placement for all the programs as well. Meaning, not only do you get childcare at a discounted rate, but you also are able to move to the front of the line if there's a wait.

On being a soldier's wife: "It is tough but I wouldn't change for the world because I have been able to travel all over the world with my husband and experience things that I never thought I would.  As an army wife, there have situations where I have had to face difficulties but it's only made me stronger." "My husband's brigade is one of the last ones out the door so thankfully I have him here with me a couple more months."

Diana says she would LOVE to build a network of KDChi soldier spouses and she'd like to hear from any other sisters in her same boat. As many posts are in small towns, she says it's difficult to start an alumnae chapter, so she'd like to get a network going of soldier spouses to link up with other chapters or sisters. Diana currently lives with her baby girl and husband in Clarkesville, TN and is expecting her second little girl in August.

(This article originally was posted in the KDChi Natl Newsletter The Emerald in 2010, we are re-posting to honor our sisters, veterans and families who have served.) 

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