PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflection represents 1LT Colleen Bies’s legacy of their military service from 2001 to 2014. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history.
The Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.
Who or what influenced your decision to join the military? Which service branch did you select, and what do you remember most about joining up?
I was influenced to join the military because my father told me I was a weak, pathetic girl and that the best thing I could do for my life was to marry a man, have children, and be a good wife and mother.
As a first generation daughter of Hmong refugees as a result of the Vietnam war in which my Dad fought for on the US side, we immigrated to Illinois, then Wisconsin, where I grew up with very little and experienced a lot of adversary and discrimination. As one of the earliest Hmong refugees arriving in the early 1980’s, there were no resources or places that we could seek assistance. Growing up, I didn’t think that college or any professional career path could be an option for me.
While in high school, I took a college level Speech class to earn college credit, knowing that I would unlikely be able to afford college. After hearing a fellow student speak about joining the National Guard piqued my interest. I was very unaware of what the National Guard was and had an assumption that it was much like the Peace Corps. To my surprise, it was not. After speaking to an Army National Guard recruiter that afternoon after high school ended and realizing my mistake, I returned home to find my father upset that I was home late. After explaining and before getting to the part where I was mistaken and not interested in joining the military, he began to tell me that the role of a Hmong girl was not to join the armed forces. That our bodies are too weak and we are not strong enough. He explained that our “place” was one in which we married and birthed babies and succumbed to an outdated traditional way of Hmong life as it was back in his homeland of Laos.
After our conversation, I had come to the realization that while I felt insulted, my father was correct about the person I was at that point in time. He had accurately predicted who I would become if I didn’t choose to make a radical change in my life.
With that, I made a decision at the moment, and two days after that conversation, I was raising my right hand and swearing into the Army National Guard.
(I hold no ill will to my now deceased father, he was trying his best with what knowledge/experience he had).