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NEWS | March 15, 2024

Women's History Month: Third-generation Soldier shares her inspiration to serve

By Sgt. Dawn Montalvo U.S. Army South

If I had to encapsulate my advice to those women who are thinking of joining the U.S. Army, it would be to create your own legacy. Appreciate the past, learn from the present, and embrace the future. It is a balance between continuous self-awareness and developing those around you.

My personal growth has been shaped by the women that came before me and the women I serve with today. My mother, Wendy Silverstein Wolff, who is a former Soldier herself, has impacted who I am today and the leader I choose to be. She grew up in Long Island, New York, and was the third of four daughters of my grandparents, Morris and Jean Silverstein. No boys.

My mother was inspired by my grandfather, who served honorably in World War II, saw combat at age 22 as an infantry Soldier inserted 23 days after D-Day in Normandy, France.

While in France, he faced heavy German resistance and an explosive hit instantly killing most of his fellow Soldiers. He was knocked unconscious and woke up in a hospital in France. My grandfather received many honors for his service, including Purple Heart and Bronze Star, but it is his personal courage and selfless service that he would pass on to my mother.

In 1979, at 24 years old, my mother decided to be the one out of my grandfather’s four daughters to step up to the plate and join the Army. She became the second generation of my Family to serve in the Army and the first female in my family to join the military.

Just a few months prior to her service, the Women’s Army Corps was disestablished and for the first time, women were trained and served alongside their male counterparts.

My mother served as an intelligence analyst in the Army Security Agency, which eventually became known as Army Intelligence and Security Command. She was assigned to the 1st Operations Battalion in Augsburg, Germany. The station’s mission was to monitor the communications of Cold War enemy stations, their allies, and client states in real time 24 hours a day. My mother served as a morse code cryptologist and interceptor alongside other branches of service and in collaboration with NATO against Russian intelligence.

She is exceedingly proud to have served and continues our family’s tradition of service. Outside of military service, she has continued to display personal courage and self-discipline, paving the way for future generations to follow in her footsteps.

My cousin, Jeannette Kelly, was the first woman in my family to join the Marine Corps. Her service lasted one enlistment term including 14 months in Iraq and the remainder of her service as military police in the White House under the President George W. Bush’s administration.

In 2018, I further continued the lineage of military service in my family by joining the Army, becoming the third generation to do so, and the first to join the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.  As I reflect this month on all U.S. military women who have served bravely throughout history and ones that I serve with presently, I have learned and continue learning from each of you. For any woman thinking about joining the Army, I say this to you: “Be useful and don’t follow the crowd, but let the crowd follow you.”

Commentary by Sgt. Dawn Montalvo, national security law paralegal noncommissioned officer, U.S. Army South.