Army Major Lisa Carter
Turning My Life Around,
From Single Mom Working for the Post Office,
to Army Major Serving in Iraq
Army Maj. Lisa L. Carter, a two-time Iraq veteran, participates in Why We Serve because she wants to share her life’s success story with the American public, hoping her story will inspire others.
A few years after graduating from Fulton High School in Atlanta in 1984, Carter found herself a single mother working at a post office in Atlanta while caring for her 2-year-old daughter.
"I met a lot of retired military personnel" at the post office, Carter said. The veterans encouraged her to join the Army Reserve as a way to improve her life.
Today, Carter is an active-duty Army officer. She also is among 12 service members participating in the sixth quarterly iteration of the Defense Department’s "Why We Serve" public-outreach program. Carter will tell her story to community, business and veterans group audiences, and at other gatherings.
Service Members are Human, Too
Carter enjoys her career as an Army officer and wants the public to know that military people have the same dreams and aspirations as their civilian counterparts. "We are human beings just as they are," Carter observed.
Although wartime deployments may be hard on service members’ personal lives, military members remain dedicated to their pledge to defend the nation, she said.
"It is stressful to be deployed. It is stressful to be away from your family. But service members know that this is their job and responsibility -- to serve," Carter said.
Following the advice of her post office co-workers, Carter enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1987 as an administrative specialist. During her initial training at Fort Jackson, S.C., she said, she experienced a revelation that jolted her mind.
"I saw a black female officer," Carter recalled. "I looked at her and thought: 'If she can do it, surely I can do it.'"
Then and there, Carter set a personal goal to obtain a college degree and a commission. In 1996, she graduated from Georgia State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work and earned an Army lieutenant’s gold bars through the school’s ROTC program.
Her quest to obtain a degree and a commission as a single parent "was a long process," Carter acknowledged, citing the effort and time required to balance work, school, and caring for her daughter. It took her nine years from her enlistment to graduation and commissioning, but she kept her focus on her goal.
In 1997, Carter, then a junior Quartermaster Corps officer, took her daughter along on a three-year duty tour in Hanau, Germany. "It was a great experience," Carter said of her service in Germany, noting her daughter learned German while overseas.
Be The Best You Can Be
In the spring of 2003, Carter was a captain and the commander of a maintenance company in Iraq that supported a Patriot missile unit during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She earned the Bronze Star Medal for her wartime service.
Carter said all commanders carry responsibility not only in wartime, but also during periods of peace.
"I came to understand the importance of making sure that you take care of soldiers, because the family members depend on you as a leader to bring their son or daughter or husband or wife back all in one piece, and that is a great responsibility upon one individual’s shoulders," she said.
Carter, whose maiden name is Weems, said she enriched her personal life when she married a fellow Army officer about three years ago.
In November 2007, Carter deployed to Iraq for a second time, but that tour was cut short due to her selection to participate in the Why We Serve program. By this time, she was an Acquisition Corps officer specializing in the management of unmanned sensors used for reconnaissance and targeting purposes in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of operation.
How We Serve - Proudly
The Why We Serve program provides unfiltered communication between military members engaged in the war on terrorism and the American public, Carter said. The program features service members’ thoughts and viewpoints on military life, she noted.
Carter intends to convey a key personal message at each of her Why We Serve speaking appearances: "I wear this uniform and I enjoy doing what I’m doing," she declared.
Our thanks to Gerry Gilmore, American Forces Press Service
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American Forces Press Service profiles each Why We Serve participant in a feature article available on www.defenselink.mil, the Defense Department’s official Web site.