By Caroline Gordon, Editorial Staff
Patty Birch, director of inclusive excellence initiatives, hosted the “Native American Heritage Month: Untold Stories Warriors for Freedom” on Nov. 17 via Zoom.
She introduced panelists Nicole Ogir and Leanna Lynch.
Ogir is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. She has been on five different deployments.
Lynch is the coordinator of Veterans and Military Student Programs at FSU. She also served 16 years in the Army.
Birch said she was “honored and humbled” to have both women speak.
She asked the first questions: “Who are you?” and “What kept you going during your time in the military?”
Ogir, a native of Worcester, answered she has five brothers, two sisters, and over 20 nephews and nieces.
“I joined the Navy because I wanted to do something for my country,” Ogir said.
She joined the Navy in September 1996 and came to San Diego, California in March of 1997.
Ogir still resides on the West Coast.
Lynch said she joined the Army at 17 years old.
“A month after I graduated high school, I was on a plane headed to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, also known as ‘Lost-in-the-Woods, Misery,’ because it is lost in the woods and a miserable place,” Lynch said.
She joined the Army as a truck driver.
Lynch said she worked her way up to being a recruiter in Quincy.
Her two youngest brothers also joined the service. One served 15 years and the other served six years.
Lynch had an assignment in Hawaii for six years and deployed with the aviation unit. She also spent 15 months in Iraq.
In Iraq, she refueled aircrafts, drove, and took care of family members when units were going to deploy.
“I was very fortunate I came home with all the people I went there with. My brothers were there at the same time and, unfortunately, they can’t say the same,” Lynch said.
After 16 and a half years of military service, Lynch left the Army.
Birch asked, “What are some challenges you faced in the military, and how did you overcome them?”
Ogir said the biggest obstacle she faced in the military was being a woman.
When she joined the Navy, women were not in full combat positions, so she started off as a sonar technician.
“I was not looked at as having equal strength and knowledge. Men did not want to be engaged with females on the ship and, if they did, it was to take over,” Ogir said.
She said she overcame the oppression with her strength and honesty.
Another obstacle she faced was racism.
“Because people didn’t know my race by looking at me, they feel like they can use certain terms
that I don’t deem appropriate at all. There was a lot of correcting and teaching that went on,”
As a Native American, Ogir said she dealt with racism throughout her career, until she retired in 2016.
She said she tried to succeed at all her tasks because without being the best, there was no
Lynch said, “There was a lot of harassment, sexual and otherwise, because I am a woman.”
She had one man in her first unit who taught her how to drive trucks. “He was the best and he made me the best,” Lynch said.
In her next unit, she said had another male mentor who told her to be assertive in order to gain
Similar to Ogir, Lynch said throughout her entire career, she had to fight to be viewed as equal
She said the people she oversaw kept her going through trying times.
As racism and sexism were the main problems the women faced, Birch asked if they could offer
any advice on how to cope.
Ogir said racism is everywhere.
“I think over the last couple of years, we have all seen an uptick in that kind of hate speech. In
order to get over it, we need to teach people,” she said.
Lynch said she went through lots of microaggressions. Her piece of advice was to not let microaggressions slide.
“Address the situation head on,” Lynch said.