LS: 2008 Veterans celebrations plentiful November 09, 2008
Looking ahead to Veterans Day on Tuesday, three female veterans in the Grand Valley talked about their service in the military and their commitment to continue working with veterans.
Julie Fuller, Lori Parrott and Michele Mummert sat down to talk about what being a veteran means to them.
‘I got to see the world’
Lori Parrott, 47, called the decision to enlist with the U.S. Air Force “easy.”
Her father served on the USS El Dorado during World War II. Her mother was in training to be a military nurse when World War II ended.
Four of Parrott’s older siblings joined the military before she decided to enlist. Other extended family members also served in the military.
The military influence and anecdotes were everywhere Parrott turned when she graduated from a California high school and had no idea what she wanted to do with her life.
“If you aren’t sure at that age, I recommend the military,” Parrott said. “My dad told me, ‘at least you will figure out what you don’t want to do.’ I got to see the world and meet new people and do new things.”
Parrott served in the Air Force from 1979 to 1985 when she was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant.
During her service, Parrott primarily served as a radio communications analyst in Texas. In 1983, she was sent to “Area 51” in Nevada on a special assignment she could not discuss.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, choosing a military career as a woman was still a “unique” decision, Parrott said, but it wasn’t a topic discussed often or dwelt on. She was in the minority as a woman but always “treated great.”
Parrott enlisted with hopes of becoming a medic, and she would have served in combat if asked.
Now, Parrott said it’s “an honor” to work with veterans.
When she and her husband, Gary Parrott, were looking for a place to retire in 2006, Grand Junction was at the top of the list for its veteran community and opportunities. Gary Parrott also is a veteran. The couple formerly lived in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Lori Parrott volunteers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She also volunteers with the Grand Valley Combined Honor Guard, a group of veterans who provide military honors at funerals of veterans in the Grand Valley. Parrott helped at 100 funerals in the past six months.
“I was so excited to join,” she said. “There’s no rank pulled. It’s a close-knit group of people.”
‘You take care of each other’
Michele Mummert, 46, could have stayed in the U.S. Army for 30 years, but she decided 22 were enough.
“It was hard on my kids,” said Mummert, who achieved the rank of E8 master sergeant before retiring in 2005.
Mummert has a 17-year-old son, Brandon Waples, who lives in Georgia with his father, and daughters Jasmine Waples, 15, and Alyson Mummert, 5, who live with Mummert in Grand Junction.
Mummert admitted she missed many of her older children’s activities while in the Army, which included multiple deployments overseas where her children could not join her.
“The more rank I had, the more responsibility I had,” Mummert said. “I was an E6 when I had my first kid. The units I was in, I had to deploy a lot.”
In 2005, facing the opportunity to advance further in the Army but with another young child at home, Mummert decided to retire to Colorado. Alyson was then 3 years old.
“I’ve been with Alyson her whole life,” Mummert said. “I have no regrets about leaving.”
Mummert also has no regrets about enlisting in the Army after she graduated from high school in Vail in the early 1980s.
“I kind of wanted to see the world,” Mummert said. “Being in Vail, I wasn’t exposed to the outside world. I was fascinated by the Army. There were people from all over the country.”
Mummert wanted to be in the military police but was told she was too short. So she entered the logistics field.
With the exception of more than five years in Germany, most of her time in the Army was spent in Texas, where her two older children were born. She also spent time in Korea and Iraq.
Adrenaline kept Mummert going while she combined motherhood with being a soldier, she said. Days often started at 4 a.m. and ended in the wee hours of the next morning.
When Mummert retired from the military, she wasn’t ready to stop working altogether. Finding a civilian job was difficult, Mummert said, who was hired at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center several weeks ago after applying for 25 different jobs in Grand Junction.
She is slowly working toward her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling with the hopes of eventually counseling veterans who are readjusting to civilian life, something she understands from experience.
“Being with the VA is so awesome,” she said. “I can relate. You take care of each other. I’ll always have a special bond with people in the military, not just the Army.”
‘I was an overachiever’
Raised in rural Kansas in the 1970s, Julie Fuller’s aspirations for what she would do when she grew up were admittedly different than most little girls her age.
“For some reason, ever since I was little, I wanted to be in the military,” Fuller, 37, said.
Instead of dolls, she wanted GI Joe plastic army figurines with the “cool guns.”
When her grandfather spoke of seeing the world as a merchant marine during World War II, Fuller envisioned a life of travel and fighting for America as a member of the military police or a medic.
Everyone but Grandma Fuller told Fuller she was “crazy” for enlisting in the U.S. Army in the early 1990s after the Gulf War broke out in the Middle East.
From 1992 until she was medically discharged in July 1996, Fuller served in the Army, where she eventually worked in military intelligence at Fort Meade, Md., at the National Security Agency. She transcribed encrypted
Morse code messages from the Middle East. That was all Fuller said she could divulge about her work.
During her time in the military, Fuller said she met the occasional man who would “outright” tell her that women “didn’t belong” in the military.
In basic training, Fuller said the physical standards for women were a little different than those for men, so she made sure her two–mile time and her number of sit-ups and push-ups was better than the standards set for women.
“I was an overachiever,” she said. “I loved basic.”
Fuller would never discourage others, particularly women, from enlisting.
In fact, Fuller would go into a combat zone tomorrow if asked and medically cleared.
“I wanted to be in combat,” she said. “I still do. I wanted to make the military a career. I didn’t want to leave.”
Fuller moved to Grand Junction in July 2007 to work at the Grand Junction Vet Center, 472 F Road, Unit 16, where she is now supervisor and readjustment counselor. She meets with veterans and their families to help them adjust to civilian life.
“I get the biggest fulfillment from working with vets,” Fuller said. “My initial goal was to be a psychologist, but I switched when I realized I could do so much more as a social worker.”
Fuller earned her master’s degree in social work from Wichita State University in 2002. She worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Ohio and Denver before moving to Grand Junction.