My son Alex called to say he had good news. Nova, Alex’s wife, has a career in the Army. Last week she received a promotion and is now a Warrant Officer 4. The only higher rank is Warrant Office 5, which, I understand, is only for pilots. In this current non-draft and non-compulsory military service environment, only oldsters like me know what a warrant officer is. My overly simple explanation is an officer who did not go to Officer Candidate School.
So, this is quite an accomplishment for Nova, quite an accomplishment for women. I’m glad to see that the military, whether forced to do it or on their own, has seen fit to promote qualified women up through the ranks.
In the not-so-distant past in these United States of America, women were told they couldn’t do “that” because they were female. Case in point: Me.
I attended college during the “you an always teach” era. To keep my mother happy, I took teaching courses. Frankly, I hated all of them. The subject matter was dull, dull, dull and the professors were duller, duller, duller. I began student teaching Spanish at a Fort Worth junior high school in the stockyard section of town – not my first choice. In that area, about 75% of the population was Mexican. The remaining 25%, Caucasian, lived there only because the rent was cheap. Most of the Mexican kids, many of whom could barely speak English, did not want to advertise that they spoke Spanish. The world spoke English. Texas, as you might remember, had fought a war against Mexico and Texas won. Even though that was 130 years before, some folks still harbored ill feeling toward Mexicans. Most of the Caucasian kids in my school were of the opinion, like their parents, that all those “gawd dah-yum Mezicuns” ought to learn English. How very enlightened.
If I only hated educational courses, I absolutely loathed student teaching. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, I dropped student teaching after four long and tortuous weeks, marched into the Texas Christian University registrar’s office and demanded, as a graduating senior, to be put into any Spanish class of his choosing so that I could graduate on time. I guaranteed I would make an A in what ever course he picked. TCU was not a place of protesters in general and certainly not females who demanded anything. Heck, we couldn’t even get a student group together to protest the lousy cafeteria food. The majority of the female student body was in school there to find a nice guy to marry, a guy with a lucrative career in his future. There I was without even a serious boyfriend, let alone wedding plans. And, I’d given up student teaching. I was a looser at barely 22 years old. (Yes, I did make an A in the class.)
As I approached graduation, I realized that I had a good education, but absolutely zero skills to make a living. I thought I should look into finding job. I went to the student placement center and read the employment bulletin board.
There was a good job posting, nice pay, for a US sky marshal. Not bad, I thought. I’d always liked to fly, so why not get paid to do it. Why the demand for sky marshals? Disgruntled with US politics and the war in Viet Nam, some extremists felt the need to hijack a plane and force it to fly to Cuba so they could join the Communist cause. Cuba became so over run with hijackers that their government began sending hijackers back to the states on the return flight. Sky marshals were supposed to stop the perpetrator before the jacking. I already spoke Spanish so I’d have no difficulty conversing with Cuban officials if it came to that. I was a lock for the job, or so I thought.
I walked my Wejun penny loafers into the career center and announced I was there to apply for the sky marshal job. The career center lady looked at me as if I’d just announced I was engaged to the Pope. You can’t be a sky marshal, she told me. You’re a girl.
So, Nova, your promotion to W. O. 4 was my “You’ve come a long way, baby” moment – forty-two years after I was denied even a job application form because of my gender. But, there you are. The world does change, even if it is a slow process. As we’d say in Texas, ya’ done good, Miss Nova. Congratulations.