Mar 20 2023
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Debbie Emery in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Emery knew right out of high school she wanted to continue the example set by her family and enlist in the military. “I graduated high school [in] 1972, I wanted to join then to follow my uncles, my father, my grandfathers,” she said. “I wanted an opportunity to do something with my life.”
Emery joined the Army and served in the Women’s Army Corps. She was assigned to the 86th combat support hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky before becoming a member of one of the Army’s first all-female firing squads. She then transitioned into the 143rd Army Signal Corps and received data-telecommunications training to be a communications center specialist, but later took on an executive administration role before finally becoming a chaplain’s assistant. Her time in the service took her all around the world from Germany to Panama and South Korea.
She noted that although it was hard to adjust to being away from family and friends, the excitement of new locations was something she truly loved. “I absolutely loved the travel. I was one that enjoyed going and meeting,” Emery said. “Where else can you go and get benefits like, you know, travel [and] they supply you a place to live.”
When Emery joined the Army, it was a time few were enlisting. Serving in the military was also not something a lot of women did and, as a result, they were often separated from their male counterparts. “When I first went, of course everything was all female drill sergeants, all female cadre, everything we had was all females…Females weren’t really as welcome during that period.” Debbie and women like her paved the way for future generations of women to have greater opportunities in uniform and truly be respected for their capabilities.
She retired as a Sergeant First Class. Advancing in military rank was one of the major highlights of her career. “Every time you got a promotion, it was just, you were ecstatic thinking I really did something well here.” She is also the recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal.
Since leaving active duty, she has been involved in local veterans programs and has maintained a positive outlook on the military and the benefits of joining the Armed Forces. “Join. You will never have such a close camaraderie. You can have relationships that you’ll build for life,” she said. “To me it’s amazing, it’s very amazing the bonds and friendships that you build throughout. It’s an honorable profession and I would encourage people to go.”
“Debbie Emery rightfully takes pride in her service to our country. I am grateful for her dedication to America’s defense and her role in showing future generations of women they have a place in the military. I am pleased to collect her stories and preserve her memories of time in uniform,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Emery’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.