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Officer Overcomes Family’s Skepticism to Serve

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Nov. 12, 2009 – When Coast Guard Lt. Hannah Bealon was growing up, she was intrigued by the stories of her uncles’ courage and sacrifice in the Vietnam War.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Coast Guard Lt. Hannah Bealon, right, shares a moment with Ruthanna Weber, a 94-year-old World War II veteran and an original member of Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES, at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va., Nov. 11, 2009. DoD photo by John Kruzel
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“At an early age, I knew I wanted to volunteer for military service,” she recalled yesterday in remarks at a Veterans Day event here at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.

But when Bealon told of her family of her dream to join the military ranks, she was rebuffed.

“I remember one of my uncles said, ‘Being a woman in the military is quite difficult, and men won’t respect you,” she recalled. Adding insult to injury, he told her that if she married a military person, she would have great health-care benefits.

“You could only imagine how heartbroken I was,” Bealon continued. “This was the same uncle who told me I could do anything a man could do.”

But Bealon persevered in the face of her family’s skepticism that a woman could succeed in a military career, and started weighing her options. Unsure of which branch and in which capacity she wanted to serve, she found herself inside a Coast Guard recruiter’s office when she read the writing on the wall -- literally.

“When I entered the Coast Guard recruiter office, there was an old, worn sign on the wall,” she recalled. “The sign had a woman who said, ‘In the Coast Guard, the only place I can’t go is in the men’s restroom.’” She said she knew right then and there that the military had a path to progress that she wanted to follow.

After considering all service branches, Bealon chose the Coast Guard. Of its 68,000 employees, 40 percent are women, she noted. Also, it is the only service that allows women to hold all ranks and positions – including its top post of commandant, she added.

In her Veterans Day remarks yesterday, Bealon mentioned some of the trailblazing Coast Guard women who helped create gender parity, including Capt. Eleanor L’Ecuyer, the first female captain; Janna Lambine, the service’s first female aviator; and Colleen Cain, the first woman killed in the line of duty.

“To my beloved veterans: Thank you for your service, devotion, duty, and sacrifices. You will not be forgotten,” she continued. “For I am your legacy, and my children will be your future.”

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