Lt. Col. Doris Armstrong Daniels: Marine Corps Veteran
A little Jeff Davis County girl was impressed by the respect shown a Navy ship’s captain in movies she saw. The memories of that snap to attention and the respected salutes instilled in her a sense of pride for the position. She had several family members in the military and so it was no surprise that after her entry into college in the 1970s she elected to visit the Navy recruiter. What was a surprise to her was the reaction she received when she told the recruiter she wanted to join the Navy and become a ship’s captain. He seemed to think that was the funniest thing he had ever heard and his peals of laughter brought out other military division recruiters to see what the humor was about. Several joined in the derision embarrassing and angering the young would-be recruit so that she left the building.
Her father had always told Doris Armstrong (Daniels) she could accomplish anything she wanted as long as she was willing to work for it but had never discussed with her the restrictions on women in the military at the time. The fact that women were not even allowed on ships never crossed her mind when she set her goals.
The more she thought about her treatment the more indignant she became and decided to write a scathing letter to the Secretary of Navy to express her displeasure at her unfair treatment. She found the address on a recruitment card in an old Ebony Magazine and promptly mailed the letter.
However, she was amazed and impressed when two weeks later a Captain in full military dress uniform from the United States Marine Corp., where she had inadvertently sent her letter, showed up at her dorm asking to see her.
The day she signed up for the Corp in 1972 launched her into a distinguished career as a proud United States Marine who accomplished many “firsts” for women in the military.
“I was the first woman to try out the new maternity uniforms developed for those who decided to stay in the corps while they were pregnant,” stated Daniels who married an Air Force Reserve man. “I took my first command thirty days after my first child was born.”
Daniels became the first officer to be deployed to Okinawa, Japan on a permanent basis. When a helicopter went down in S. Korea as the Dispersing Officer she carried in paychecks to the troops on site. Daniels states the incredulous looks she received from the men there were priceless but the feat gave her the distinction of being the first woman in a combat zone.
In 1992 Daniels received distinction as the first African-American female Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel. She served as Commanding Officer of the Military Entrance Processing Command, Atlanta, GA. and when she took command as the first African-American female battalion commander of the Marine Corps Logistics and Supply Base in Albany where she was in charge of three companies consisting of 1200 men and 10 women Daniels was told by her chaplain who had read her story, “This is your ship.”
She proved herself to be an apt leader winning the confidence of both seasoned and young officers leading by example in training maneuvers never having wished she had chosen her career differently except, “maybe at 4 a.m. on a rainy morning when I have just walked 24 miles with one more to go.”
Daniels retired from the Corps in 1999 but states, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
Since her military retirement Daniels has served in other capacities that include City Manager of Clinton, TN, Fulton County, GA Deputy Director of Public Works, Mental Health and Health Dept. Directorships, Administrative Officer over Veterans Opt. Centers in Ft. Walton Beach, and Panama City FL. In addition, she was a member of the first class of State Dept. employees that graduated under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Daniels encourages young people to consider military service stating, “We owe it to our country to give back. It develops character and skills that will see you through a lifetime of ups and downs. Young women, stop seeing yourselves by gender but as basic human beings and American citizens. Many women have gone before us that have knocked down the barriers of what were traditionally male only fields. Step into the spotlight and be all that you can be and know that you are worthy.”
Lt. Col. Doris Armstrong Daniels is the daughter of late Dudley and Lona Armstrong and 1969 graduate of J. E. Johnson High School. She makes her home in Atlanta, GA where she is completing her PhD requirements in Clinical Psychology. Her husband Tom Daniels is retired Brigadier General, Air National Guard for the State of Oklahoma. He currently serves in an appointment on the Board of the Veterans Administration. Their daughter Rachel lives in Atlanta, GA and is the Assistant Media Director at Georgia Public Broadcasting and son David is an Investment Banker with 3rd Fifth Bank, currently on a one year leave, teaching Tour in Ireland and Spain.
November 11th is a day set aside to honor our Veterans, and we in this county wish to express our thanks to the little Jeff Davis County girl who grew up to render such distinguished service to our country as a United States Marine.
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