Like many writers that I know, I tend to dislike being the center of attention, even if the attention is positive.  However, today is Veterans Day.  It is a day to commemorate the extraordinary lives led by those in service of the nation, and it is time to honor the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who safeguard our peace and freedom.  I was deeply honored and humbled to have been selected to represent my military brothers and sisters at the Inspire (AGL Resources Professional Women’s Group) year-end event in Naperville, Illinois this evening.  I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Inspire managing team for their assistance and support.  

My name is Pamela Reid.  I am the Program Manager, Operations, Quality Assurance for Nicor Gas.  I report to Leticia Quezada, Manager, Compliance Assurance, who reports to Rick Lonn, Director, Compliance Assurance in Atlanta.  I’ve worked at Nicor Gas since June 1997, more than 16 years, but, unlike most of my counterparts in management, I came to Nicor Gas at 27 years of age.  What did I do for the nine years prior to my arriving here?  Well, I am also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and served during the First Gulf War.  I can tell you that those early experiences helped to shape the person I am today.  Later, I will share some of my personal beliefs and core values in hopes that others may be inspired by my words.  
 
Before I share those thoughts, I would like to tell you a little about the journey that led me to become a military veteran.  I was a High Honors student in high school and an Illinois State Scholar.  I achieved a nearly perfect score on the English, Reading and Writing ACT Tests.  However, if I chose to attend a university, I would have to do it on my own.  I was undeterred.  I went to the library and, in researching scholarships and grants, I learned that, as a resident of the state of Illinois, if I served at least one year of federal active duty service in the Armed Forces of the United States, and was honorably discharged, I would be eligible for the Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG) Program.  Qualified applicants could use this grant at the undergraduate or graduate level for the
equivalent of four academic years of full-time enrollment.  This program pays all eligible tuition and mandatory fees.  I had found a way.  
 
When I entered the service in 1986, many Marines felt that women had a lot to offer the armed forces, but the Marine Corps' duty was to develop and employ an effective fighting force.  There were very important roles that women played in that effective fighting force, and many opportunities for women to add to the 212-year history of locating, closing with, and destroying the enemy through fire and maneuver.  But not with a combat MOS.  Options being somewhat limited for women Marines, I opted for an administrative MOS.  I administered pay and personnel for the Marine Corps, collecting, monitoring and conducting audits on source documents, references, records, Leave and Earnings Statements, bonds and allotments, disbursement notices and pay, and took corrective action as required.  My first duty station was at Marine Corps Air Station, Tustin, California.  I was happy, for a while.  I was awarded meritorious masts, selected to compete on special recognition boards, and received Certificates of Commendation.  I was thankful for these opportunities, but I was bored.  I expressed interest in a more challenging role.  The command master sergeant called me into his office to let me know he’d personally recommended me for Marine Corps Security Force (MCSF) Guard duty.  

I became the first woman Marine assigned to Security Forces billet at Marine Barracks Pearl Harbor, newly opened for women by U.S. Congress.  Elements of MCSF were assigned world-wide to naval installations that, in the opinion of the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, represented a high value target or security risk.  I had to be physically fit and mentally capable of enduring the rigors of combat.  I had to have the requisite knowledge to safely and properly employ the service rifle, pistol and shotgun.  As a member of a reaction force, I conducted offensive infantry tactics in confined spaces, ashore and afloat, to restore breached security and provide the final barrier/element of an integrated security plan for the asset being protected.  I had to possess skills in land navigation and patrolling.  This was exactly what I had trained for since first arriving at Parris Island two years earlier so, like my male counterparts, I was well-prepared for such a challenge.        
 
Having qualified as a high expert with the M16 service rifle, with multiple awards, afforded me the opportunity to become the first woman Marine selected for the Marine Barracks Rifle Team.  I competed in events with the M14 United States Rifle, the M16 Service Rifle, the M1911A1 .45 Caliber Pistol, the Smith & Wesson Model 59 / 9 mm, the M2 .50 caliber machine gun and the combat shotgun.  I also served on a multi-service detail that carried flag-draped coffins, one by one, out of the back of a C-141 Starlifter cargo aircraft on the base flightline at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii at 1900 hours on days the remains of U.S. service members killed in Korea,
Vietnam, or elsewhere, arrived for transfer to the Central Identification Laboratory for forensic examination and eventual return to next of kin.  
 
Like many young Marines, I was extremely proud.  But the truth was, I was not all that special.  Every Marine is a leader.  Leadership is found throughout the ranks and at every level of the Marine Corps.  Every Marine is trained to act instinctively and effectively, regardless of the situation.  Leadership training is critical to ensuring all Marines are not only prepared, but also prepared to lead.  It is this level of military readiness that, ultimately, saves lives.  Marine Corps principles such as "strive for excellence, “lead by example" and "make sound and timely decisions" are lessons that I continue to apply at home, in the community, and in the business world. 

Let’s talk about excellence.  You may think that striving for excellence means perfectionism.  Perfectionism is the opposite of excellence.  Perfectionism is about shielding yourself out of a fear of failure.  It is about uncertainty and doubt.  Excellence is about getting the most out of our talents.  It is about knowing yourself and your strengths.  Excellence means utilizing your talents so that, when you move on, you’ll have left a better place for those who follow.   
 
I believe there are no coincidences in this life.  If you are here, whether you intended to be or not, you are here for a reason.  So, find your passion.  One of my passions is writing.  I wrote a historical novel that was published in 2010.  At that time, I was a single parent with two small children.  I worked tirelessly from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every night simply because that’s when my children were asleep and I could immerse myself in my work.  Out of some hugely misguided notion, I also insisted on writing my first novel completely in long-hand, pen to paper, later transcribing it to word processing software.  It took me six agonizing months to complete the historical research and two more years to have a submission-worthy manuscript.  It was painfully exhausting.  But, make no mistake, it was never a sacrifice.  Only when I am immersed in a new writing project do I feel alive.  Writing is my passion.  What is yours?  

Have you ever thought about what you really want to do in life?  Not your profession or hobby, but on a much deeper level.  What impact do you want to have on the world?  How do you want to be remembered?  First, identify your mission.  Then, identify your values.  Once you can align yourself with what matters most to your heart, you become empowered to make the right choices.  If you can learn to foster your talents, and leverage others along the way, you’ll become that person in your community and workplace who inspires other to embrace life.  Your talents and your strengths, and, ultimately you, yourself, are your greatest assets.  Likewise, when you are working on your goals, or on activities aligned with your mission and values, throw yourself into it.  Your love for that task will not go unnoticed. Identify the hard work you need to do to move your projects forward. 
  
Consider the vast amount of life experience and the commensurate lessons you have to share with others.  Don’t squander your experience or your knowledge.  Be inclusive, not exclusive.  We are the sum of our parts and every single person in this room has gifts to share.  Be an inspiration to others.  Give without expectations.  Share your knowledge and expertise freely with others.  While we usually see giving as a way to getting something, it is incredibly satisfying to let go of this expectation.  When you meet people, open your heart to their lives and stories because, let’s face it, life is about the relationships you build along the way.  So, have you checked your compass lately?  Our compass tells us how to steer the ship of our life, and when adjustments are needed at the wheel.  Once you have done so, set your compass true, and then stay the course.    
 
In closing, I would like to say how proud I am to have served my country in the armed forces.  My time in the
military allowed me to learn many life lessons and, for that, I am truly grateful.  Please remember those who serve and have served.  It is because of their sacrifices that we are able to say that we live in the land of the free.  May God Bless You and May God Bless America on this Veterans Day!

 


Comments

Tammy McCann Guerra
11/11/2013 6:40pm

You are such an amazing person and great friend! If I knew all of your qualifications as a Marine, I probably would have ran from you! Thank you for sharing and Happy Veteran's Day to you!

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