KSLA Salutes: Air Force and Marine Corps veteran broke ground for other women in the military
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Naomi Soliday is an Air Force and Marine Corps veteran and a member of the Women Veterans of the ArkLaTex.
Born and raised in Belvidere, Ill., Soliday enlisted in the military after graduating from high school.
“The biggest attractions in Belvidere at the time were going to work at the Chrysler auto plant or going to work at the Green Giant food factory, neither of which I wanted to do” she said.
“So I started to look into the military. I looked into all the branches. I went into this little bitty trailer, which was the Marine recruiting office. I asked if they had anything for women and they told me ‘Oh yeah, we take women all the time’ and I was hooked.”
Soliday served eight years in the Marine Corps as an administrator.
“The Marines will recognize 0151 as my MOS,” Soliday said. “I was an administrative clerk, and that started my career in the military.
“I got out to raise a family,” she continued. “Then went into the Air Force Reserve in ‘91. I had eight years and I didn’t want to throw it away.
“I worked at the military entrance processing station, so I had a chance to look at all the reserve programs. I also got to know the reserve recruiter and he told me to do it. I took the physical for the Air Force and was assigned to the 98th Maintenance Squadron, which was a part of the KC-10 squadron on Barksdale. That’s where I learned to be an airman instead of a Marine Corps sergeant.”
Soliday was later hired as an Air Reserve technician in the 917th Wing, now known as the 307th Bomb Wing. Through the Air Force Reserve, she worked as a civil servant. She spent 21 years in the Air Force Reserve.
“I’m so thankful for it because it got me all over the world,” Soliday said. “I was able to visit England and Australia. I went to a lot of the bases across the United States. I was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 2002 and to Manas Air Base Kyrgyzstan in 2003.
“I have memories with people that I will never forget. I celebrated my 50th birthday at a restaurant called 12 Chimneys in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. I was deployed with a Security Forces unit; the guys found out it was my birthday, so they all got together and took me out for a birthday dinner.”
She said her biggest takeaway from her service was recognizing that her contributions helped pave the way for women currently in the military, including her own family.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but I was breaking ground for my nieces and my daughters,” Soliday said. “I have a niece in the Navy who is serving in Biloxi, Miss., and a niece who was medically retired from the Army. My daughter Rachel served in the Air Force, and my daughter Genevieve was in the Louisiana National Guard and the Army Reserve up in North Carolina.
“It’s not just me, it’s a family thing. I have a couple of nephews who are in the military also or who have served in the military.”
Soliday is now retired; she spends her time giving back through Women Veterans of the Ark-La-Tex.
“People gave back to me, so it’s my turn to give back to them,” Soliday said. “There are 2.6 million women veterans in the United States. We are a minority that no one talks about. We are here and we support all veterans.
“We have a young woman who works for the VA as a veteran coordinator, and she finds out about women veterans in need. All she has to do is reach out and tell us, and you would not believe how fast the women in our group can put together furniture, food and even money. It’s a way of giving back. We are here and we are not going anywhere else. We are here to stay.”
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