Lessons in Strength Learned from Dad

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I have always been a strong woman, even when that meant being a strong girl. I chose to enter the military when it was not as common for women as it is now. And I chose (as much as the military gives you a choice) to enter a traditionally male-dominated field – transportation. I have my father, with his example and his encouragement, to thank for leading me to a career that further empowered me to be a strong and successful woman. Now as the seasons of life are changing, I will use that same strength that my Dad nurtured in me to care for him as his health declines, because true strength takes many forms.

black military boots, tan leather work gloves, with photo of woman in military uniform and another photo of man in uniform with young girl

I grew up as a military child. My dad always told me I could do anything I put my mind and effort to and that I could grow up to be anything I chose. I never once questioned whether I could or should do something. I only asked myself if I wanted to do it. It wasn’t arrogance on my part, just that my dad never saw a future other than the one I wanted to work for and so I saw that same future. He never said it would be easy. He taught me that strength comes from doing what is right, being prepared, sheer uncomplaining determination,treating people well and not giving up. I just thought that was how the world operated. I didn’t realize that I was a strong woman. I was just me, following in my father’s footsteps.

I chose to enter the Air Force to pay for college. Of course, the fact that my dad served 20+ years in the military was an inspiration. I selected a traditionally male-dominated career field – transportation. It is a field related to my father’s military career field (it was what I knew). It never occurred to me to pick a field with more female officers or troops. I chose what I wanted to do, not what society said I should do.

left image - military cargo aircraft with nose open for loading, right image - cargo being loaded into side of aircraft

As a transportation officer, I was responsible for the safe and successful loading and unloading of millions of tons of cargo and passengers aboard military and civilian aircraft. I worked with heavy equipment like forklifts, K-loaders, stair trucks and lavatory servicing trucks (Yepper. That means what you think it means.).  

I wore steel-toed work boots, leather work gloves and hearing protection. I supervised the processing and loading of passengers, hazardous material, explosives and other sensitive items in the aerial port (a military airport). It was physically demanding work with potentially life-and-death results if we did not do our jobs correctly. I relished the challenge. 

black military boots, tan leather work gloves

Occasionally, I found that my age, petite size and being the only female officer in the squadron made folks I worked with skeptical. That is until they worked with me for one shift. After one or two shifts, I never had any issues due to my gender or any other reason. Ever. It still boggles my mind that I never had any problems. I’m not saying that everyone was thrilled, but they kept it to themselves and worked with me to accomplish the mission. 

I absolutely loved the job. I lived for the challenge and the thrill of accomplishing the mission. I thrived on the challenge of being a woman in a male-dominated, physically demanding field. I was very successful in my career field. It was a career where a strong female leader could succeed and be rewarded for that success. I was a different type of leader than my male counterparts. I brought my own strength and style to the job. I was able to find such a rewarding career thanks to the strength and confidence that my dad taught me from the day I was born. My dad never saw any limits for me and I never experienced any limits. 

Lessons in Strength Learned from My Dad

father in uniform with young daughter

The Brawny Strength Has No Gender™ campaign celebrates strong women and each woman’s unique story. Have you seen the exclusive to Walmart, limited edition Strength Has No Gender™ Brawny® Pick-a-Size 8 Giant Plus packs yet? You can find them in the paper towel section of the store. 

paper towel packaging with woman in plaid shirt with crossed arms

I love that they have a strong woman on the package. I really love the side image with her arms crossed. She is one strong woman. 

The Strength Has No Gender™ campaign celebrates the real stories of real women, inspirational women, all across America who have been succeeding in traditionally male-dominated industries and empowering others to do the same. Brawny® understands that we all have unique strengths that deserve to be celebrated. 

I love that Brawny® Paper towels are made in the USA and have more sheets on every roll (versus leading national comparable roll and sheet sizes). They help you clean up whatever life throws at you. The pick-a-size is perfect for clean up around the house. 

stack of pill bottles, roll of paper towels and glass of water on white table

My life has changed recently. My father, my example of strength, is facing serious health issues. I am his main caregiver during this time. I’m relying on the same strength that I used in the military to help me care for my father. I see it as a growth, a maturity, of that strength. I’m learning new skills: managing multitudes of medication, techniques of caring for my father and ways to support him emotionally. It requires the same strength that I needed as a young woman in a male-dominated military career field. A strength that is made even stronger due to a daughter’s love for her father. And I can’t imagine any other future than caring for my dad. 

I’m thankful that the lessons in strength I leaned from my Dad are the same lessons that I need now to care for him. I’m honored to be able to encourage him and his own strength through this new life journey. Truly Strength Has No Gender™ and family is what is most important in life. Be sure to be inspired by other women’s #StrengthHasNoGender stories.

black military boots, tan leather work gloves, with photo of woman in military uniform and another photo of man in uniform with young girl

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  1. Wow, what a great post! What an amazing dad, to give you such strength! I could use you in the classrooms I sub in. I bet the kids would really listen to you, just like the men did in your military career. It does take a different kind of strength to take care of your dad now. I will be praying for you and him.

  2. My Father was a Military man also and many of the lessons I learned about being strong came from him. There are so many areas in life that require strength and caring for a family member is one of them. It is good that you had your Father to teach you.

  3. Loved this story about your dad, my son is in the Air Force and making it a career it has turned him into the most amazing man he now has confidence and a since of authority he never had before, his dad was a Navy man but it’s OK. My son is in the Azores in charge of transportation it was a officers job but because of cut backs my son got the job he is a Master Chief, so proud of that boy of ours.

    1. You have reason to be proud, Kathy. Thank you to your son and your family for your service. Transportation troops are the best! (Of course, I maybe biases since I was a transporter, too.)

  4. Thank you for your service, Susan, and for sharing your story. <3

    I appreciate that Brawny is promoting a Strength has no Gender campaign, and I think it is so important to encourage females to enter any profession they want. I look forward to hearing more real stories of real women.

    1. Thanks, Andrea. I agree with you. Women (and men) should be able to choose any profession they would like.

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