Leading the Way: Mary's Story
“Lessons I learned at Boys Town are still very applicable today," she said. “And I can tell you without a doubt, I would not be where I am today without my experience at Boys Town. I was on a destructive path. I would not be in the military, and I honestly might not be alive. I am so thankful for everything Boys Town did for me.”
Mary Carter has traveled the world while serving in the United States Air Force, but she said it never would have been possible had her journey not begun at Boys Town.
Before Boys Town, Mary Felt Lost
Mary grew up in Texarkana, Texas. Her family was a large one with three older sisters and a brother. Being the youngest, she found herself following the examples of her siblings. It was a loving family, but Mary found herself heading down the wrong path. She wasn't motivated and felt lost at times.
“I wasn't respectful of school,” she said. “I had homework, but I would just come home, make myself a bowl of cereal and watch TV. My life was going nowhere.”
Getting into trouble, Mary heard about Boys Town. She remembers telling her parents that she thought it might be the place for her.
“I remember being so angry,” Mary said. “I blamed everyone else for the things that were going bad in my life. I needed to do something. I thought Boys Town might be the answer.”
So, in September of 2000, Mary left Texas for Omaha. She remembers arriving at Father Flanagan's famous home for boys and girls not knowing what to expect.
She quickly learned.
“Structure,” Mary said. “I was put on a schedule. I enjoyed the discipline. As I look back, it's probably one of the reasons I became interested in the military. I was successful in being part of a team in athletics and the JROTC program became very important to me.”
An Event that Changed Everything
A life-changing event occurred, as well, during her time at Boys Town. Mary said September 11, 2001, is a day she, like others, will never forget.
“Colonel Edwin Jordan was in charge of our JROTC, and Sergeant Jesse Taylor was his assistant,” Mary said. “They played a huge role in my life at Boys Town, as did my Family-Teachers, Chris and Kelinda Cobb. My Family-Teachers became very close to me. They shaped my life and helped me plan my future.”
Mary admits she wasn't the perfect student or housemate while at Boys Town. But she said she learned from her mistakes.
Life Lessons Learned at Boys Town
“I learned that consequences aren't always negative,” she said. “I also learned that Boys Town people really do care. No one ever gave up on me. I felt loved and respected. And my housemates are now like sisters to me. We keep in touch, and they are my family.”
During her senior year, Mary said she knew exactly what she wanted to do after graduation – and she didn't waste any time in getting started. She enlisted in the Air Force the very next day after receiving her diploma and was on an airplane to Texas for basic training that week.
“I chose the Air Force because it gave me options to study engineering,” she said. “I knew what I wanted to do, and I've been able to make the most of it.”
Leading the Way for Other Women in the Military
Mary currently lives in Panama City Beach, FL, and is stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base. She has been in the Air Force for 20 years and her title is Senior Enlisted Leader for the Airfield Pavement Evaluation Team, which she says is a fancy duty title that really means she supervises a team of engineers who inspect airfields around the world. There are only three people with that title in the Air Force and she is the only female.
“I live in Florida, but I've been all over the world,” Mary said. “I've learned that I have to be flexible because I could be one place today, and in two weeks, I might have to be somewhere else. But it's been a great experience and I've definitely taken advantage of my opportunities.”
She has furthered her education through the military. Mary has earned an associate degree in construction technology; a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering; and a bachelor and master's in civil engineering and geo-technical civil engineering.
“Basically, all those degrees mean I like playing with dirt,” Mary said.
And, she is quick to point out that all that learning began at Boys Town.