Women’s History Month: Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives

Latarsha McQueen

Latarsha McQueen

For Latarsha McQueen, celebrating National Women’s History Month is about acceptance and recognition.

She enlisted 18 years ago, currently works for Coast Guard Sector Juneau and is a reservist for the Coast Guard 17th District. In that short time she was also an electronics technician and an active duty officer.

“My family didn’t want me to join the military, I had a four-year college degree and I was expected to be a teacher,” said McQueen. Her decision to join the Coast Guard was a bit random. She thought about joining the Air Force and the Navy, but wanted to be an officer and to be on boats. The Navy recruiter explained that she might find what she wanted in the Coast Guard. “I hadn’t heard of the Coast Guard, but it sounded like an adventure,” said McQueen.

Her intention was to go straight to officer candidate school, but a mix up with her recruiter led her to make the decision to enlist. McQueen’s first assignment after bootcamp was Coast Guard Station Tybee Island in Georgia.

“I remember putting in my package for officer candidate school and my coworkers told me that I was definitely going to be selected because I was a black female,” said McQueen. “It was meant to be a disparaging remark regarding the Coast Guard’s efforts to look more like our nation with regard to diversity,” she added. McQueen didn’t appreciate those comments, because she knew if she was selected, it would be based on her qualifications and value to the organization.

According to McQueen, diversity equals the opportunity for people to find common ground and that their contributions are valuable to the service.

Seeing other women in our organization presents a wonderful opportunity to grow and share.

For women it’s not always easy to balance the needs of the service with the needs of their families. “I continue to seek a healthy work-life balance, but it is extremely difficult in such an active and competitive society,” said McQueen. “So when I see women I can emulate and women that I’ve mentored be successful, it’s extremely rewarding.”

One mentor that has helped McQueen succeed in her life is her mother. “My mom is my hero,” she said. “She did what we expect heroes to do. She sacrificed so I could be the best me I could be.”

Her mom gave her the support and love she needed to make her own way and taught her about kindness, humility, and integrity.

“Most importantly, she raised me to have faith and that’s important,” said McQueen. “My husband and I hope to instill the same dedication and love for others in my own children”.

The Coast Guard has changed, according to McQueen, today she feels that she can speak freely and comfortably about race, gender, and culture, because the Coast Guard is some much more diverse than it was when she joined.

Women in the Coast Guard and in the military are leaders and are paving the way for others, said McQueen.

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