In her shoes

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Three generations of women create a family legacy of service

Navy veterans Olif Staley (left) and Linda Staley Blake (right) celebrate Jennifer Blake’s graduation from Navy basic training in 2005. Blake—now a chief petty officer—followed her mother’s and grandmother’s legacy of service as the third generation of women veterans in their family.

When Navy Chief Petty Officer Jennifer Blake was growing up on military bases around the world, she knew her family was special. But it wasn’t until she joined the military herself that she recognized how truly special her family’s legacy of service was.

Blake—a DAV life member, currently stationed in Norfolk, Va.—is the third generation in her family to serve in the Navy. But while that in itself is not uncommon, what’s unique is that all three generations included women.

Her grandmother, Olif Staley, was a communications officer in World War II, serving at a time when the entire country—male and female—was called to serve in some manner. Blake’s mother, Linda Staley Blake, joined in 1969, during the Vietnam era.

Olif Staley

“I loved growing up in a military family,” said Blake. “Everyone was quietly proud of their service, and the family legacy, really. It was just sort of seen as ‘what we do.’”

Blake joined after she graduated from college, when the world was still recovering from the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Her mother and grandmother never pressured her to join the military, she said. They had both been to college, and they wanted that for her as well.

“After my graduation from nursing school, I decided I was going to join the Navy, and I did,” said Staley Blake. “I’m thankful that my mother was in the Navy too, so that I had no fear of going into the Navy. I mean, she did it; I could do it.”

Staley Blake’s husband, Robert, also served, retiring as a lieutenant colonel from the Marine Corps, so her children had the benefit of being raised in a military family—and she thinks her own service had a little bit to do with that.

Linda Staley Blake

“I felt that the military experience helped me raise my children, because I had a broader base of experiences to share with them. I could help them see a wider world,” she said.

Blake said the example she had from both her mother and her grandmother showed her how to serve effectively and take on all the challenges of military service.

“I think what guides me the most is just how they approach life in general,” she said. “We do what we have to do. Period. When things are difficult, there’s no crying. No hysterics. No complaining. When the [commanding officer] tells you this is the mission, and it’s going to be difficult, you don’t get to have a tantrum about it. You put your head down and get to work.”

“We’re all different in our military occupations, but we each provided service to our country, whether it be for two years or four years or a lifetime,” said Staley Blake. “I hope that future generations of our family will look back on our service and be as proud as we are of doing it.”