Robin Jones always wanted to be in the military. She was 24 and had her first two children when she joined the Navy after college in 1990, with a great deal of support from her mother, Alice Brooks. “My mother watched my kids for six months of boot camp and training, then she was my support for over 20 years when I was serving. She’s my #1 fan and I wouldn’t have made it without her, “ Jones says. Even with her mother’s assistance, she found being displaced from children and family to be a daunting aspect of service. “During my first two deployments, electronic messaging wasn’t what it is now, and we barely had email access. Now it’s changed a lot, but being separated from those you love while carrying out the duties of service is something that only other veterans truly understand.”
“I think that everyone would benefit from being in the military for the structure and discipline. One of my sons is in the Navy and is a Navy recruiter, and he’ll call and say “Hey Shipmate!” and we’ll talk about the unique day-to-day issues of serving. Veterans sacrifice a lot, but we do it because it comes from our hearts and love of country, not to get anything in return.”
While she misses active duty, Jones is now Veterans Service Representative (VSR) for the Louisville Regional Office for the Department of Veterans Affairs and a board member and housing advocate for Athena’s Sisters. Athena’s Sisters is a Louisville organization whose mission is to allow military women to use revolutionary expressions to grow in dignity and honor, building a community of courage through artistic advocacy. The members empower themselves through a sisterhood created by mind, body, and heart healing. A cause especially important to Jones is a female veterans’ shelter to help them get back on their feet and get work. “During our service we’re trained to do a lot of things,” she says. “Now we want to channel those skills and abilities towards helping our community of women veterans.”
Learn more about Athena’s Sisters and the important work they are doing at
Deleskia Butler- Navy, Army, CW3 (retired 2015)
Although accepted into college with a volleyball scholarship, Deleskia Butler chose to enlist in the Navy immediately after her high school graduation. “I think going into the military was the best thing for me,” she reflects. “I did four years in the Navy and then crossed over to the Army. While in the army, I obtained two degrees, married a wonderful husband, and had three beautiful girls. All the while I was stationed at places all over the world that I would have never seen if it had not been for enlisting. I have had a wonderful career and my family is very proud of me.”
Butler feels that the biggest challenge was leaving her children when she deployed to combat. Her parents helped take care of her daughters due to her husband’s work schedule. “Thank goodness for great parents!” she says. “Returning from a year-long deployment and reintegrating with my family was hard. I had to relearn them all over again. It was as if they’d learned to go on without me. They had gotten accustomed to doing things on their own that I used to do prior to leaving. This was very hard for me.”
Now that she’s retired, Butler volunteers every Monday and Wednesday at the Louisville V.A. Hospital. There she helps in a clinic for female veterans who have served in combat, as she did, and feels that she can relate to them since she has shared that experience.
Pamela Stevenson- Colonel, Air Force 1984-2011 (Retired)
Pamela Stevenson was offered a 4-year ROTC scholarship to any college she chose, and with the support of her family (which includes many veterans), she began her service, becoming her family’s first female officer. After graduating with a degree in business, she went on to complete law school and enter active duty in 1984. Her first assignment was as an adjutant in a fighter squadron and then as a commander of the maintenance section. Deployed multiple times, she served in Europe and the Middle East practicing law and teaching civil and family law, leadership and ethics. “I love working with people who are committed and willing to sacrifice all to make things better for others,” she says. “It was meaningful learning about other cultures and representing America overseas and in negotiations. I loved the family culture of the military–the sense of belonging and purpose. Knowing that the work I did, from filling sandbags to practicing law, mattered.”
To other women considering military service, she says, “Whether you enlist or get a commission, recognize that you are in a male-dominated world, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be yourself. Ask for mentoring and alternately give it. One of my biggest challenges was developing my voice as a leader and not succumbing to negative stereotypes of women in the military. My husband of 31 years, Thomas F. Shannon, is my hero because as a military spouse, he was responsible for the home and our two children, especially when I would be away for 3-6 months at a time. He was confident enough that my success didn’t bother him and he made sure I had everything I needed to excel in the Air Force.”
Stevenson and her husband now live in her hometown of Louisville. “I made up my mind that I would move from serving America to serving Kentucky,” she says. She’s currently applying her rich law background and skills to form a not-for-profit law firm for the underserved in her community. The law firm legally empowers and equips veterans, the elderly, families, and individuals of modest means and give them better access to the legal system.
Helen Horlacher Evans-Captain, Women’s Army Corps (WACs)
Helen Horlacher Evans was one of America’s first members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Officer Candidate School in 1942, later known as Women’s Army Corps (WAC). The WACs were formed during World War II, and were trained in many specialties, including mechanics and small arms repair, which served the war efforts and freed men up for armed combat positions.
Evans was a single, 21-year-old home economics instructor at Versailles High School when she and several other instructors were in the teacher’s lounge, discussing what they’d just heard on the radio. Congress had signed a bill creating the WAAC and they were accepting forms for enlistment and officer candidate’s school. Daring each other to apply, they borrowed a car and put in their paperwork. After her physical and written tests and a personal interview, Evans was accepted. The military readily recognized her potential; she later learned that “very young but very capable” had been written at the top of her application.
Evans served as a captain in the WACs for almost four years, utilizing her background in food service. Her efforts ensured that servicepersons would have healthy food and that waste would be minimal, since civilians were already going without things. “We needed food that could travel and not spoil, so I was trained to inspect food at WAC mess halls,” she reflects. “I went to military bases all around the country making inspections for the Office of the Quartermaster General. With our dieticians, these inspections resulted in the first official WAC Food Service Bulletin.” Her inspections eventually took her to the European Theatre of Operations, traveling behind the troops in France and Germany in a jeep with a male driver.
After the war ended in 1945, she moved to Louisville for a job at the VA, then she and her husband Joseph Carson Evans Sr. (also a veteran), eventually settled in Lexington with their two children. After leaving active military service she stayed busy with special projects for the Governor’s Mansion and DAR, was first director of the Friends Program at KET, and was director of the Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion. At 95, she takes continuing education classes at U.K. and assists with veteran’s affairs through assisting with honor flights, and helped establish the Women in Military Service For America Memorial in Washington.
“Serving in the military in World War II is an experience that was really unique. I feel quite fortunate,” she observes. “It certainly broadened my horizons. I think it broadened the horizons of that whole generation. Serving opened up a whole new way of life, giving us exposure to new experiences in leadership, travel, and self-growth. That’s still true for veterans today.”