Today my daughter will celebrate her 30th birthday teaching young Naval aviators how to fly helicopters. She will work to help them gain the confidence and skills necessary to qualify in a demanding field. Most of her students are male, not surprising given the fact that fewer than 10 percent of all Naval aviators are female. Although she earned her own wings just over five years ago, she has already amassed thousands of hours of flight time as a Navy pilot and has been an instructor for over two years. Concurrent with her day job, she has participated in an on-line program to earn a master’s degree in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School this past December. To say that I am beyond proud would be an understatement. Who could have imagined that the little girl with the shock of red curls (passed down from her paternal grandfather) who entered the world on a sunny spring California day 30 years ago would become such an accomplished and competent woman. Actually, we did or at least dreamed she would, her Dad and I, although we had no idea the rapid trajectory her life would take.
She was the younger of our children, arriving two years and two months after her older brother (who coincidentally is a helicopter pilot who spent his first years following graduation from the Coast Guard Academy on icebreakers prior to making the transition to aviation). From an early age Becca demonstrated a love of the outdoors, flying kites, riding bikes, camping, and playing sports. She couldn’t wait until she was old enough to use the powered lawn mower. She helped her dad and bother build a 10 foot wooden sail boat and learned to sail it when she was 8 or nine years old. She took her first overnight backpacking trip with them on a section of the Pacific Crest trail around that time and then jumped at the chance to take a week-long family canoe trip on the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota a few years later. It’s no exaggeration to say that she has always open to a challenge. Although she was not as much of a natural in the classroom as she was in the outdoors, she worked very hard to succeed there as well. The summer following her junior year in high school, she earned an internship at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edward’s Air Force Base. The next year she earned several scholarship offers at graduation.
The one that she elected to accept, an ROTC scholarship to the University of Maine, was a clear indication that she was open to see where life would take her. She worked that summer before college at a park in the Antelope Valley before packing up and moving 3000 miles across country leaving all her friends and the California lifestyle she knew so well behind. As if she didn’t already have enough on her plate, the first week at Maine, she asked for a try-out and earned a spot as a walk on for the university’s softball program. Although her scholarship did not require a specific major, she did not take the easy way out, choosing to pursue a Marine Science major. Undoubtedly, it wasn’t easy and there were new challenges along the way (e.g. the late night swimming incident), but somehow she always stayed focused on her goals. She graduated with her class in four years and took a trip to Africa with a friend while waiting to “class-up” for flight school in Florida.
As a parent I am most proud of the way she has persevered. And I am delighted that she is a happy, healthy adult doing a job that is important and that she enjoys (most of the time anyway). She commented to me just yesterday in her weekly phone call that she is more than satisfied with her life. What could a mom ask for more than that.