Each week during Women’s History Month, we honor and celebrate the women Veterans within our museum and volunteer staff ranks. Their countless contributions and selfless acts of service inspire us daily.
Meet Maria Kelly, U.S. Army and Ohio Army National Guard Veteran and Volunteer at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum
Q: Where were you stationed, what was your job?
A: I enlisted into the US Army when I was a senior in High School. I was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, where I worked for a Maintenance Evaluation Team. I traveled with the team throughout the V Corps area inspecting publications accounts to ensure that the units had the appropriate technical and field manuals on hand for their assigned equipment. This was during the early – mid 1980s, the Cold War. While there were many tensions and escalations between the NATO Allies and the USSR, there were also many scares due to terrorist organizations such as the Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang. While there was a lot of tension during this time, I was young, and managed to travel on and off duty to enjoy a lot of what Europe had to offer. I traveled as much as I could because I thought I may never get to visit again. I planned to leave the Army after my three year tour. After leaving the service, I attended Ohio University where I enrolled in ROTC and enlisted in the Ohio Army National Guard. Once commissioned, I continued to serve in the National Guard. I had the opportunity to serve in numerous domestic and overseas operations until I retired in 2016.
Q: What does service mean to you?
A: Service is an opportunity we have to strengthen the legacy of those who sacrificed for our freedom. While I didn’t understand that when I enlisted, I certainly learned that lesson during my time in military service.
Q: What impact has service had on your life?
A: Service allowed me the opportunity to share my skills and talents and learn new skills and talents from others. Service puts me in an environment to meet the most amazing people in our country and around our world so that I can continue to grow and contribute to others.
Q: What is your favorite exhibit inside the museum?
A: The exhibit I identify with the most is in the “Transformations” alcove of the core exhibit. One of the main features is a wall with six photographs of service personnel in uniform. But when you move slightly to the right or left, the photos blur before becoming six photographs of the same person as a civilian. There is a quotation from Ben Snyder, A World War II veteran – “…….I wonder if you will find me changed.” Military service is life changing. When you leave the service it is not so easy as trading in your uniform for a suit or dress. I sometimes find myself feeling “stuck in the blur.” No longer a Soldier, but not feeling really like a civilian either. It’s difficult to describe with words, but I think the transformation of the photos – coupled with the blur – describe it well.