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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

CoastLine: Female military veterans on standing up for their own rights while serving

US Army nurses line the rail of their vessel as it pulls into Greenock, Scotland in August 1944
U.S. Archives
US Army nurses line the rail of their vessel as it pulls into Greenock, Scotland in August 1944

Cooking food, working as nurses, working in maintenance and repair units, dressing as men: for millennia, women have worked near and actually on the battlefield.  But they still make up less than a quarter of the active U.S. military force, and they still face career barriers.

Despite fear of retaliation in the face of misogyny, three local female veterans, Deborah Dicks Maxwell, Marcia Morgan, and Veronica Carter, say they're proud of the times they spoke up for their rights and dignity.


When we talk about women in the military, it’s often pegged to the still-unresolved issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. Or the fact that only since 2013 have women been legally allowed in combat, although they’ve actually been in combat zones long before the 21st century.

Nationally, the number of women in the military ticked up slightly in 2022. That’s according to the latest Department of Defense statistics. But women still make up less than a quarter of the force.

As we’ve observed in an earlier episode, the number of military veterans is growing in North Carolina. By 2030, the state is on track to house the largest veteran population in the country.

In an effort to narrow the gap of understanding between military and civilian communities, we meet three women who served in the U.S. Army and have gone on to serve their community in civilian capacities in Southeastern North Carolina.

Deborah Dicks Maxwell is the first female president of the North Carolina NAACP and a military veteran.
RLH
Deborah Dicks Maxwell is the first female president of the North Carolina NAACP and a military veteran.

Deborah Dicks Maxwell achieved the rank of Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army and Reserves. She served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and she is a past commander of the Wilmington National Association of Black Veterans. She is also the current President and first female President of the North Carolina NAACP.

Marcia Morgan served in the U.S. Army for 25 years, retiring as a Colonel.
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Marcia Morgan served in the U.S. Army for 25 years, retiring as a Colonel.

MARCIA MORGAN is known in political circles from her campaigns for state office starting in the 2018 election cycle. In 2022, she challenged incumbent Senator Michael Lee, who retained his seat by less than two percentage points. While she leads with military values on the campaign trail, she doesn’t talk much about the details of her service that included a number of firsts – such as becoming the first female combat service support company commander in 2nd infantry division in Korea.

Her military service also took her to Germany, the Netherlands, and the Pentagon. Before her military career, she was a professor at Smith College. After an unplanned departure from academia and a period of deep soul-searching, she joined the U.S. Army, served for 25 years, and retired as a Colonel.

Veronica Carter is serving a second term on Leland Town Council and is a U.S. Army major.
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Veronica Carter is serving a second term on Leland Town Council and is a U.S. Army major.

VERONICA CARTER went from ROTC in college to a 20-year career in the United States Army. After just two years of service, she found herself in charge of 78 soldiers, all of whom were men.

She retired as a Major, with two tours in Korea and one in Germany under her belt.

In 2019, she was elected to her first term on Leland’s Town Council. Four years later, she won a second term.

The Governor of North Carolina appointed her to a four-year term on the Coastal Resources Commission in 2008. In 2021, she joined the Battleship North Carolina Commission thanks to an appointment by the Governor.

She has served on the Board of Directors for both Cape Fear and Brunswick County’s Habitat for Humanity, as well as on Leland’s Parks and Recreation Board.

Links & Resources:

Veterans Affairs historical perspective on women veterans:

https://www.va.gov/womenvet/docs/20yearshistoricalperspective.pdf

For assistance with veterans benefits and services, contact your county chapter of the NAACP or VA.GOV.

New Hanover County: info@nhcnaacp.org

Brunswick County: https://www.brunswicknaacp.org/resources

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.