Meet LaVern Glosson
Denver Peer Leader
U.S. Navy 1978-2001
Tell us about your military background.
I am originally from Milwaukee, WI and one of 8 children, but none of my siblings had any military background or experience. I had earned a scholarship to college for basketball, but I decided to enlist in the Navy where I believed there was more opportunity and I could excel at what I wanted to do. I joined the inactive Navy Reserves in April 1978, then left for basic training in Orlando, FL in August 1978.
I was excited to find out my first assignment was at the Marine Corps air station (MCAS El Toro). Unfortunately, I found out quickly that the military wasn’t quite ready for women, especially African American women. I was consistently told “Go back home, we don’t want you here in our Navy,” or “You’ll never make it.” In 1981 I transferred to VQ-2 Reconnaissance Squadron in Rota, Spain where I participated in a SECNAV exercise aboard the USS America (CV-66) that would identify ship modifications required for women to serve onboard aircraft carriers. In 1983, I transferred back to MCAS El Toro and was selected to the All-Marine Basketball Team.
In 1986, I transferred to Diego Garcia, a joint strategic logistics base where for the first time I encountered being told “I won’t work for a black female.” Needless to say, it was also my first time helping a sailor be discharged as unfit for the Navy. Between 1987 and 1994, my commands included Naval air station Atsugi, Japan (E7), Commander Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, HI (E7), and HSL-48 Anti-Submarine Helicopter Squadron, Mayport, FL where I deployed aboard the USS Vicksburg (CG-69) and was promoted to Senior Chief (E8).
In 1996, I transferred to Naval Air Facility, Keflavik, Iceland, completed Senior Enlisted Advisor Academy, and was promoted to Master Chief (E9). After leaving Iceland, I transferred into the Command Master Chief position at Naval Aviation Warfare Command in Patuxent River, MD and retired in 2001, completing 24 years of honorable Naval service. I think I can say, “I made it.”
What was the most rewarding aspect of your service?
Hands down, it was the brotherhood and sisterhood with people from various states, countries, and continents. I would say a close second would be the ability to travel to so many countries to see and learn from their way of life, and to realize so much is taken for granted in the U.S. I also found it emotionally rewarding and such a grand honor to develop and lead my subordinates to the point that many of them followed me from command to command. It did not seem like much at the time, but I also appreciated being able to further my education by receiving my bachelor’s degree while serving in the military.
What was one of the challenges you faced in your transition from military to civilian life?
The one thing that sticks out to me is loneliness. When I left the Navy, I felt I had no one to “connect” with, which was exceedingly difficult. Also, because I was very senior in the military by the time I retired, I found it challenging to start all over in the civilian world. It did not take long, but I still had to prove my worth to civilians that did not understand my military background and level of experience. I would always remember the words shared with me from two especially important mentors. My grandmother told me when in doubt, to “show your worth before anyone can tell you your worth.” It was important to me to show my new employer my skills to avoid starting in a position at the bottom. Another mentor in the military told me, “If you can think it, you can visualize it, and if you can visualize it, you can do it.” I am blessed to have been as successful as I have been. However, it was not easy without the camaraderie of my shipmates.
What inspired you to become involved in WoVeN?
I learned about WoVeN from one of my friends here in Denver, an Army Veteran who was searching for women Veteran activities and found the website. I thought “Here’s that connection I’ve been missing, here’s that sisterhood I can get back.” WoVeN is something especially for “us”. When I separated, there were not many programs tailored for women Veterans that helped us find “connectedness” or provide a bridge to the civilian world. Camaraderie and sisterhood for women is different than for men. It has the power to bring peace to troubled times and simply, but genuinely, moves our soul. It’s about caring and giving to one another. I reached out to join a group and was invited to be a peer leader. I also saw WoVeN as a great opportunity to connect with Veteran resources here in Denver and share these resources with other women veterans. I wish WoVeN was around when I transitioned, which is why I tell everyone I meet all about it!
What would you like to tell women who are thinking of joining WoVeN?
The military can force you to grow up fast. It teaches you to be a leader and build teams, but it does not teach you how to process your feelings, your anxiety, or emotions. You often must place your feelings on the back shelf to do your job. WoVeN allows us to reach inward to reconnect with those stored thoughts and feelings that belong to that young Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine … to grab them, let them know that it is OK to come out…it is OK to stand tall and proud. I would tell them that it is safe, and that you will not be alone. That you would be standing amidst other women Veterans to call on for emotional support. WoVeN is a reminder that we are not alone. In any small town, city, state or across the nation, we are woven emotionally, and are intimately strong together.