Had Linda Lewis-Everett not enlisted in the U.S. Army, a long family legacy of joining the military would have still continued.
She had plenty of siblings — six of her 12, to be exact — who took care of that. The line of service dates back to her great-grandfather, but even when she enlisted when she was 22, Lewis-Everett did it for her own reasons.
Her job at the bank wasn’t paying enough money to support her and a young son, so Lewis-Everett figured joining the military would be a good way to finish her college education. She attended Indiana University before enlisting and got her degree from the University of Phoenix after leaving the Army.
Lewis-Everett accomplished her goal, but she also became part of something bigger along the way.
“I was young and went for more personal reasons, not to uphold any family legacy,” she said, “but in retrospect, I’m glad I was a part of that family legacy.”
Lewis-Everett joined the Army in 1982 as a clerk. She was stationed at Fort McClellan in Alabama and Barstow in California. Her last tour, a year and a half in South Korea, was also her longest.
The tour in South Korea was what’s known as an “unaccompanied tour,” meaning she couldn’t take her 4-year-old son. Lewis-Everett said that was the main reason she left the Army in 1986. She achieved the rank of sergeant by that point.
Her son, Kenneth Peters, is 40 now and said he didn’t comprehend the sacrifice his mother made until he was older.
“Realizing she couldn’t be away from me or family let me know how important I was,” he said. “She made this sacrifice but also understood she had to return.”
Lewis-Everett, 58, said her time in the military was a good experience because it exposed her to other cultures and customs. She enjoyed traveling and feels like she still benefits from those four years.
“I’m accustomed to difference, if that makes sense,” she said. “It sounds like a juxtaposition, but I’m used to things being different.”
Lewis-Everett said she didn’t experience the kind of discrimination she heard about from older relatives who had also been in the military, but being an African American woman has continued to test some people’s automatic association of veteran status with a man.
When she’s out to dinner or at a store, Lewis-Everett said, she asks employees if they offer a veteran discount, and they usually thank her husband, Dubois Everett, for his service, even though he wasn’t in the military.
“When we think of the military, we think of male,” she said.
Lewis-Everett is part of a group called Sister Soldier Network, which honors Black women who have served in the military.
Lewis-Everett is now an author. She said she’s always enjoyed writing and usually has multiple projects going at the same time. Her historical fiction book, “I Still Hear the Drums,” won an award from Author Academy Elite.
The book is about a girl who’s stolen from her African home and enslaved. Lewis-Everett knew she wanted the cover art to be of a man playing the drums, and after some reluctance, Peters agreed to be photographed for the cover.
“I was willing to do it, of course,” he said, “because she’s my mom.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.