US ARMY 1997-2001
Today the Women Warriors of Ohio spotlight falls upon Gladys Garner Harris who served in the US Army from 1997-2001.
Born in Cleveland in 1975 to Rudolph (Vietnam Era Marine), and Barbara Garner, Gladys would be joined by a younger sister Geniece. After her parents divorced when Gladys was eight, the girls lived with their mother in Cleveland. Barbara worked as an administrative assistant for several college deans over her career.
Gladys developed a love for science and the French language as a teenager. She attended Shaker Heights High School as a college preparatory student. She was able to visit Grenoble, France as an exchange student in 1991. Upon graduating from Shaker Heights in 1993, Gladys had the goal of either becoming a French teacher or a French interpreter. These goals were postponed when Gladys became pregnant at 19. In addition to giving her a beautiful daughter she named Deiahna, Gladys also became very close to her midwife. This experience altered her life goals to choosing to pursue a career in nursing.
Becoming a nurse required college and that required money which neither she nor her parents could afford. Gladys saw a display of pictures of Army nurses while walking through the mall. The nurses caught her attention because she didn’t know much about the Army and was intrigued that there were nurses in the Army. The recruiter was very frank with her about the mental and physical challenges of Army life, but Gladys was able to show him she would have no problems handling either. After that the recruiter was very positive and helpful in Gladys understand nurses’ roles in the military and how to use the GI Bill for nursing college.
On the 30th of May, Gladys would follow her younger sister Geniece’s lead, (who was at that time a Marine stationed in Japan) and enlist in the Army.
“I reluctantly gave my mother guardianship of my two-year-old daughter and flew to basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina.”
After she landed, Gladys recalls walking through the airport, laughing, talking, chewing gum and listening to her headphones. “We walked out of the jetway and there were Drill Sergeants EVERYWHERE IN THE AIRPORT! They started yelling and I was so afraid I swallowed my gum!”
Gladys did fine in basic and enjoyed the process of becoming a soldier, and “I was proud to have my boots and uniform.”
AIT training to become a 71L, (administrative specialist) was also at Ft. Jackson. “AIT was fun because it was like basic training with drill sergeants, but we could speak with them. Also, in AIT, the drill sergeants explained more of what the Army would be like and sang cool cadences when we marched around post.”
Gladys had selected Ft. Stewart, Georgia to be her first duty station, “because I wanted to be in a place that I didn’t have to deal with cold weather, snow, and winter.” Gladys had hoped to start college here as well as have her daughter come live with her. Her first memories of Ft. Stewart were positive, “I enjoyed my female “battle buddies” here who taught me the “ropes” and taught me how to keep my hair squared for the field.” Little did she know Ft. Stewart was a rapid deployment installation. Two months after her arrival tensions rose between the US and Hussein in Iraq and her unit was deployed to Kuwait.
“I remember the feeling of heading to the flight line and having been given a magazine of live rounds and two atropine injectors. That alone jarred so much fear into me that I remained awake for the entire 17-hour flight.”
Gladys has no fond memories of her deployment to Kuwait and was happy to return stateside again to Ft. Stewart. She had a reputation for being a “squared away” soldier by her superiors and was rapidly promoted from E-2 to E-4. Life took a fortunate turn when Gladys was at Ft. Stewart. First, she was assigned to the HHC of the 3rd Infantry division as the administrative secretary to the General’s staff.
After six months at HHC, her superiors, upon learning of her strong desire to become a nurse transferred Gladys to the Division Surgeon’s office. Here she was tasked with arranging for the transportation of and the hospitalization/treatment of wounded soldiers, often at Walter Reed hospital. She was also responsible for collecting and logging all teaching documents along with immunization records into the computer system. Under direction of the NCOIC, MSG Matthews, Specialist Garner was given the responsibility to direct the PT programs for the division’s expectant mothers and new mothers, in order to increase their health before delivery and to ensure new mothers could quickly return to “duty ready” status after delivery.
Gladys spent the balance of her enlistment at Ft. Stewart and was able to bring Deiahna to Georgia to be with her. She also began taking college classes at Armstrong Atlantic State University. Her terminal leave began the 26th of July 2001 and the two returned to the Cleveland suburbs where Gladys began researching schools of nursing she could attend.
The transition back to civilian life was not easy for Gladys: “I was “homesick” and not transitioning well to civilian life in Cleveland. I missed my Division Surgeon Office battle buddies and the regimented life of the Army.”
Gladys planned a trip back to visit Ft. Stewart and was leaning towards re-enlisting. Then the attacks that happened on September 11th, 2001 changed her life direction forever. “I called my old unit that afternoon. In my conversation with MSG Matthews that day she gave me the following advice.” “Find a college and enroll! Specialist Garner, don’t look back! Become a nurse and let us be in the Army.”
Gladys followed that advice but does harbor some guilty feeling over that decision. “When I saw the “shock and awe” phase on the news as well as seeing my 3rd Infantry Division patch on the soldiers crossing the border into Iraq for the first time, it made me feel guilty. To this day, I will not look up old battle buddies or people I served with because I do not want to know who is dead or alive.”
Karma or fate occurred that day for at the moment Gladys hung up from her call to Ft. Stewart, she heard a radio advertisement about the nursing program offered at Ursuline College. “I did not know where Ursuline was located but I knew it was meant to be. I visited, applied, was accepted, and enrolled. I really enjoyed Ursuline and the challenge of the nursing program course work.”
Gladys excelled in college, graduating in 2006. She passed her boards and joined a very busy and challenging high risk labor and delivery unit, where expectant women were also often dealing with other serious medical issues including cancer, diabetes, preeclampsia and drug addiction issues.
“This was literally a L/D ICU unit and the loss of life of either the mother, infant or both was way too common. We nurses’ had to maintain our composure around our patients but often took crying breaks and supported each other after a shift when there was a patient with a loss.”
While working for five years on this unit Gladys also went on to do community. Nursing in order to finish earning her Master of Science in Nursing, specializing in Nursing Informatics, from Walden University in 2011. Today Gladys is responsible for overseeing the training of all nurses in the extensive Cleveland Clinic system, in order to help them understand and use constantly updating technology to care for their patients.
In 2015 Gladys married “a wonderful man” named Ronald who she calls Ronnie. Her daughter Deiahna is now 25 and has graduated from Kent State with her Bachelor Science in Fashion Merchandising. Gladys and Ronnie are the proud parents of a 2 ½ year old daughter, Kameryn.
Gladys and Ronnie enjoy attending comedy shows and going to R & B concerts of artists such as Patti LaBelle, comedy shows, and hanging out with friends. Ronnie is an avid walleye and catfish fisherman, so the couple also have a huge annual fish fry for family and friends.
Thank you, Gladys, for serving our country so well and for years of caring for the sick and afflicted patients here at home! HOOAH!