Women play so many roles in life; daughter, wife, mother, sister, friend. For women who serve in the Military, their roles intensify when they enter a life of service.
The only word retired Lt. Col. Kay Scwartz can use to describe all the roles she balanced during her time in the United States Air Force, is “sacrifice.”
Sacrifice for her country.
Sacrifice for her family.
Sacrifice of herself.
Living an officer’s life is challenging at best.
It isn’t a career that turns off when the work day comes to a close.
It’s a 24/7 job that requires a lot of energy and dedication to be successful, just like the role of a wife and mother.
When Kay met Phil, he was an Air Force Captain. He was a Cop and stereotypically, “kind of an asshole.” But he owned it and she cherished him for it. She says with conviction that he’s been the biggest advocate for her in her career and life — bar none.
She was remarried to Phil in 1992. He retired in 1995 but she still had 12 years to go before she could even begin to consider hanging up her combat boots.
Phil got a great job in San Antonio, where they were both stationed when he retired.
Kay got orders to go to Treeport, Lousianna, four hours away.
He didn’t want to move and she knew that if she forced Phil to quit his job, he’d never work again.
He wasn’t one for job interviews and resumes.
Kay had two young kids from a previous marriage who also lived in San Antonio.
The Treeport school system was less than stellar and job opportunities were scarce.
Kay and Phil decided that she would move, alone.
Kay drove 400 miles home to San Antonio one weekend a month and Phil drove to Treeport another weekend.
The hardest decision she ever made was leaving her kids behind.
A less than ideal living situation but the sacrifice supported the whole family unit.
Her ex-husband lived a half mile away from her San Antonio home and was able to care for the children on occasion.
He was still active-duty himself and was often deployed to Saudi Arabia.
Phil took on the major responsibility of caring for the kids. Kay says she had a great ‘man-picker’ and without Phil, she wouldn’t have been successful.
Kay is grateful for the sacrifices during those difficult four years.
Being away from her family afforded her extra time, which paved the path for a promotion, and greater opportunities for her and her family in the long-term.
“THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING A CAPTAIN, A MAJOR, AND MAKING LIEUTENANT COLONEL IN THE WAY YOU’RE VIEWED, HOW YOU’RE EXPECTED TO BEHAVE, AND HOW ALL THESE EXPECTATIONS IN THIS MILITARY ENVIRONMENT MOLD YOU INTO WHO YOU ARE.”
Phil and Kay have been married for 27 years.
They have worked together to lift each other up, they’ve learned how to deal with the conflict between them.
They both have very strong personalities and together they are partners in the truest sense of the word.
When Kay finally returned to San Antonio for the last time, it was her twilight tour, four years to retirement.
She was working with a training command before moving to the personnel center and already knew she was done.
She had just spent four of the last eight years away from her family.
She knew if she extended she’d get orders to go somewhere else.
She also knew that she’d most likely pick up full-bird Colonel if she did.
At the end, she did what was best for her, Phil, and the kids and she retired after 20 years.
Before she got out, Kay got her certification in Human Resources.
After a brief unsuccessful stint as a financial advisor, Kay took a gamble and threw her resume on a job board.
A woman at Kraft was intrigued by Kay’s leadership qualities got her a job at one of their daughter companies. She stayed in Texas and began work in HR.
Kay says she had lots of success, but also had her struggles, “One of my struggles was very direct communication. I didn’t sugar coat anything. So I got a lot of feedback, lots of feedback.”
Kay had to tone down her approach and dial back the intensity of her communication. She had to learn to have different kinds of conversations.
Kay went from one side of the spectrum of being too direct to the complete other side which was not being direct enough.
When she came to USAA, Kay found her home.
Kay’s days of sacrificing are over but her life of service continues.
She was a Military dependent, a Military Spouse, a Military Officer, and now she is a Military Veteran.
Through USAA she continues serving those who’ve served. To her, it’s her duty and she honors their continued sacrifice.
Adam T. Cummings
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