By Dorry Gundy, Mother of Navy Lt. Shannon Rice
I didn’t expect I would be the mother of a U.S. Navy officer. I’ve always had a deep respect for those who serve in the military. My father was a Master Gunnery Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed in the Pacific Islands during World War II. He carried the values of the US Marine Corps with him every day and instilled them in all of his ten children. Two of my brothers joined the Marine Corps and my nephew is set to become an officer in the Corps upon his college graduation. Yes, the military is an important calling for the males in my family.
When I grew up, I married and had two daughters, Lea and Shannon who are now adults. They are best of friends and wonderful people. Shannon, the youngest, got her undergraduate degree in Biology from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, then pursued a Master of Science in Health Sciences Physician Assistant Studies at PCOM in Philadelphia. At the PCOM graduation ceremony in 2011, her classmate and friend, Amy was inducted into the U.S. Navy, and as a college graduate, she was on track to become an officer. It was a beautiful and touching ceremony. Shannon moved home to find a job as a Physician Assistant in the Washington, D.C., area.
Three weeks later she announced that she decided to join the U.S. Navy to carry out her work as a Physician Assistant. I cried, and they weren’t tears of joy. I didn’t want my daughter to become part of a wider family that serves our country?that’s for other people; that’s for guys. But she was resolute. She explained to me that the Navy offered things that were important to her: the opportunity to travel and to experience other parts of the world; a leadership role as an officer; the drive to take on new challenges and to leave her comfort zone; and the opportunity to do what’s important to her?to help the people who serve our country.
She was inducted and, weeks later, headed off to Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island. It wasn’t easy for her?we weren’t the kind of parents who shouted at our daughters to get out of bed in the morning?but she not only survived, she thrived. When she graduated six weeks later, I thought my heart would burst with pride. LTJG Shannon Rice. I cried again, though this time it was tears of joy. She was where she wanted to be?helping the large family that serves our great country as a Physician Assistant in the U.S. Navy.
Her first assignment was working as a PA at the Marine Corps Air Station clinic in Iwakuni, Japan and at that time, I was doing freelance work for the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. It was then that we both learned of an important program offered by the American Red Cross for service members. The Service to the Armed Forces is a global communication link between service members and their families in the U.S. We both were impressed that the SAF offers help to families in getting their service member home in the event of a family emergency. As someone who administers to patients that serve our country, Shannon knows the peace of mind the SAF program gives to them.
Now, Lt. Shannon Rice and her friend from PCOM, Amy, also a Lieutenant are both in San Diego administering to patients of the military and their families at naval clinics there. I still can’t believe I’m the mother of a Navy officer, but I know my daughter made the right decision.