After 37 years of service, retired chief warrant officer will lead national women’s military memorial

Kaylah Jackson
November 04, 2019 - 1:09 pm
Retired Army chief warrant officer Phyllis Wilson new face of Women in Military Service for America Memorial

(Photo courtesy of Phyllis Wilson)

Phyllis Wilson progressed through the ranks of the Army, from private to command chief warrant officer of the U.S. Army Reserve. After 37 years of service, her next mission is unique even for her — leading the nation’s first and only national memorial honoring military women.

As the new president for the Women in Military Service For America Memorial, Wilson will be the face of the foundation to honor some 3 million women who have worn the uniform.

“All of my years I just wanted to be a soldier, not a woman soldier,” Wilson said on her initial thoughts of applying for the position — until one encounter changed her mind.

“I pulled into a veteran parking spot in front of a grocery store and was getting out to go shopping and some smart alek made a comment: ‘Hey honey, you see that’s veterans parking there. Is your husband with you?’

“Now, if a man had parked whether he served or not, nobody would say anything,” Wilson said.

That sole experience was the tipping point for her. “The women in military service still need a champion.”

Wilson is also making history with the memorial itself. In the past, the foundation was led by retired general officers. But after reaching the highest level within her position as the fifth command chief warrant officer for the Army Reserve, serving for 37 years in the intelligence field, working at Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and becoming a registered nurse, she's not short of leadership experience.

"I don’t regret one minute of it, especially now, and I went to candidate school in 1989. (I) had no idea that command chief warrant officer was a possibility," Wilson said.

In October, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial celebrated 22 years. As its new president, Wilson will serve as the face of the foundation and with it, she brings a whole host of changes and improvements.

“We’re in a really exciting time …we were financially in bad straights, fortunately, we’re in a better place (now),” Wilson said.

Over its 20-plus years, the memorial has deferred much-needed maintenance but recent changes including exterior pressure washes and leak repairs have given WIMSA an aesthetic facelift.

Wilson says in addition to physical changes, the foundation is also working on an updated database system that will allow past and current servicewomen to register themselves with the memorial online.

The team at the memorial is slow making these changes as they lead up to the 25th anniversary where they hope to have a massive dedication ceremony. Over 30,000 people attended the initial dedication in 1997.

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