Lt. Col. Kay Schwartz knew in high school that she wanted to serve her country. She wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and join the Navy.
In 1982 the Navy wasn’t yet friendly to women.
They wouldn’t even let them serve at sea. So Kay’s dad convinced her to go Air Force officer with an offer of paying for her college.
Kay commissioned in December of 1986. She entered a man’s world and was made aware of this fact regularly and often times egregiously.
Having mentors around that had her back along the way was the biggest reason for her success.
She learned that issues could be dealt with swiftly, without the need to destroy someone’s career, and quickly became her MO.
She married her second husband Phil in 1992. He was also an Air Force officer and retired at the rank of Major in 1995. Kay still had 12 years to go.
Times were about to get difficult at best.
Soon after Phil started his civilian job, Kay got orders to Treeport Mississippi. Kay had two kids from her previous marriage that she still shared custody with in San Antonio.
A choice had to be made.
One that would leave Kay 400 miles apart from her cubs and beloved. Sacrifices must be made.
After Kay’s last deployment to Iraq in 2004, she knew that the time for retirement was upon her.
Although she was looking at full bird Colonel if she signed on for another four years, she also knew they’d give her orders somewhere else along with it.
She knew she couldn’t be away from her family like that again.
In 2007, Kay hung up the combat boots for the last time. She had gotten her Human Resources Certification before leaving the Military but decided to first try her hands at financial advising.
She quickly learned that she was a great advisor but a terrible saleswoman.
Back against the wall, it was time Kay tried job hunting. She had spent the last 25+ years in college or the Military. She was in over her head but she took a gamble and through her resume on a job board.
A woman from Kraft Foods saw it and loved her leadership experience so decided to give her a shot.
The job worked for a while but the culture simply wasn’t Kay’s style.
That’s when she found her home at USAA. They let her be a Military Veteran and be proud of it. They supported her for being a Female Veteran.
For the first time since she had separated from the Air Force, she was able to be herself.
12 years after retirement and Now the Director of HR for the Tampa regional offices at USAA, Kay believes that the further she gets from the Military, the more she has found who she truly is.
She’s proud of it and learning to embrace her Military Service as her own, and own who she is as a civilian, has allowed her to not only find success in transition but true contented happiness in transformation.
You can often find Kay supporting events and activities through USAA for Veterans and the Military around Tampa Bay as USAA has deeply invested themselves in the local community it serves.
Her and her husband Phil are still happily together after 27 years of marriage which she attributes to the respect they’ve always had for one another as the foundation to the success of their relationship.
Adam T. Cummings
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