Sorority support taught vet civilian survival
3 years ago
Anwesha BhattacharjeeWeb Editor
Assistant Director, Galerstein Women’s Center
Service: 2000 – 2006
Branch: U.S. Air National Guard
One of Narcely Ruiz’s earliest memories was watching her dad play “Taps” on his trumpet at Army funerals.
“I recall — as a little girl — hiding behind the bushes as my dad played “Taps” for military funerals and even though I didn’t understand it at that time, I thought it was the coolest thing that my dad did,” she said.
She followed in her father’s footsteps and in high school joined the JROTC program. When she graduated, however, she found herself unprepared for college. Neither of her parents had received a formal education and she hadn’t done much pre-college preparation. Her only application, to UT Arlington, had been rejected.
Crushed, Ruiz didn’t know what else to do, and told her dad she wanted to join the Marine Corps, but he took her to the Air Force recruiting office instead.
“He just did not want me to be a Marine… I didn’t understand it then, but after my military experience, I understood.”
To her dad, the Marines seemed like a grunt-first job compared to the more academic and technical Navy and Air Force, which he thought would be a better fit for her, she said.
Ruiz served for six years, with four years of active duty and was stationed at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas.
She worked in base law enforcement and was promoted to field officer, a rare circumstance for a junior airman like herself, she said.
Three years before she left the force, she joined Texas Christian College to pursue her undergraduate degree in criminal justice. The experience changed her outlook toward life.
She learned to question her beliefs and reason her way through life, Ruiz said.
She joined the Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority at TCC and said she remembers thinking that at 24, she was so much older than them that she would have nothing to learn from them.
“I remember having that arrogance that I knew everything and thinking ‘What could these little girls teach me?’ but they taught me everything I needed to know about womanhood,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz joined the Galerstein Women’s Center in 2007 and transitioned from being surrounded by men in the military to an office full of women which was a unique experience for her, she said.
The support system working here has been much more than what she was used to in the military.
What Ruiz had been most afraid of when leaving the military was losing her connections and the camaraderie she shared with her fellow service members.
Ironically, she forged the very same kind of relationships with her sorority sisters and the women at the Women’s Center at UTD which helped her move back seamlessly into civilian life.