Throughout Women's History Month in 2021, America's Warrior Partnership is highlighting the women veterans on staff. We begin with Sarah Holzhalb, Director of Marketing and Development and Coast Guard veteran.
1) Who or what inspired you to serve your country in the military?
My Grandpa and my Uncle were the military role models in my life. My Grandpa enlisted at 17 as a Marine and served with the 2nd Marine Division in World War II. He fought in some of the most brutal battles – Tarawa, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Tinian, Saipan. He had a velvety worn manila envelope of pictures of him and his buddies during his wartime that I was just fascinated looking through as a kid. He did not share many details about his service, commenting, “It was just something I did,” but it was obvious that his service was important to him and he was proud being a Marine. My Uncle served 20 years as a Coast Guard officer and inspired me to be a part of the country’s oldest seagoing service. They were both incredibly supportive of me serving my country.
2) What does Women’s History Month mean to you as a veteran?
I reflect on the women whose stories and lives has positively impacted me, veteran or civilian. Growing up in the 1980s, my first woman hero was Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. She once said that she wanted to be remembered as someone who wasn't afraid to do what she wanted to, as someone who took risks along the way in order to achieve her goals. That's such a valuable lesson for all of us to remember in our lives.
As a Coast Guard veteran, I think about those lesser-known Coastie women that paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps of service. Women like Florence Finch, Ida Lewis and Viven Crea are leaders that I admire now in my adulthood, that we did not earn about in school textbooks growing up.
I'm inspired by the bravery and vulnerability of Katharine Graham, whose family owned the Washington Post. She became one of the first woman publishers of a U.S. newspaper, and the first woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She doubted her own abilities and had her confidence shaken numerous times yet made extremely difficult decisions for what she felt was right.
These ladies were not necessarily focused on being the "first" of anything - they just wanted a chance at doing something they desired and doing it with excellence and honor. What resonates with me is the women throughout our country's history who had the courage and bravery to say, "I want to do this".
3) Is there a specific event or accomplishment within your military service that you are most proud of?
During Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, I was Aide to the Admiral responsible for all rescue and recovery operations. The coordination and teamwork were exceptional - from the command centers directing rescue assets and taking emergency calls from the public, boat crews, rescue swimmers and pilots, logistics, administrative and supply teams. While the hurricane and the aftermath were unprecedented, the public truly witnessed the talented, daring, and innovative work the men and women of the Coast Guard do every day. Amidst the chaos and tragedy, there was an overwhelming reaction of compassion, service, and assistance. This was not just among state and federal entities responsible for the response efforts, but within the city of New Orleans, the state, and the region. People came together to help each other. 4) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, or what is your personal motto - that has helped shape your life, both personally and professionally?
"You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” This is a quote from Marcus Aurelius and his work “The Emperor’s Handbook” is something I read in college and that I’ve had on my desk or bedside table ever since. This quote is similar to one that my parents and my high school and college basketball coaches relayed to me. Whether it is an emotional or mental struggle, you can keep calm, keep your mind centered and overcome any obstacle. The same quote my husband and I apply whenever we are participating in physical challenges – ultramarathons, marathons, a workout, or event that just sucks and hurts. Your mind will quit before your body, and if you can control your monkey mind, your body will follow and keep going. That leads into another favorite motto, “We can do hard things,” which a good friend of mine shared.
5) How would you encourage others to honor Women’s History Month and the women veterans in their lives?
Take some time to learn the stories of the women in your life. Ask them questions about their motivations, accomplishments, and challenges. Be a vessel of support and encouragement to the next generation of girls and young women. So, they may grow to possess a kindness of spirit, and an attitude of positivity, diligence, and confidence to achieve whatever it is they want to.