Delphine Metcalf-Foster
Army veteran and DAV Past National Commander Delphine Metcalf-Foster followed in the footsteps of her late father, Joseph Robert Taylor. Taylor was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and a member of the all-Black 9th Calvary Regiment.

When Past National Commander Delphine Metcalf-Foster first heard of the proposal to rename the Mare Island Veterans Affairs Clinic in Vallejo, California, after her, she immediately thought of her father, Joseph Robert Taylor.

Taylor was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and a member of the all-Black 9th Calvary Regiment. After his service, Taylor struggled to find a good job in an era when Black people, even those who fought and sacrificed for their country, were discriminated against and shunned.

Taylor eventually found a job as a cook at the old Mare Island Naval Shipyard—less than a mile from the VA clinic. Years later, after retiring, and when Metcalf-Foster was just 5 years old, Taylor died at the naval hospital following a heart attack at home.

Last month, U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson and John Garamendi of California introduced a bill that would rename the Mare Island clinic the Delphine Metcalf-Foster VA Clinic. Metcalf-Foster has volunteered for the VA Northern California Health Care System for over 25 years and continues to volunteer at the Mare Island clinic once a week.

“I dedicate this honor to all veterans, but on a more personal note, I dedicate this to my father,” Metcalf-Foster said. “He paved the way for me to be able to have a life dedicated to service. If Mare Island carries my name, it carries his legacy, too.”

Metcalf-Foster has laid the foundations of legacy in her own right. In 1996, she retired from the Army as a first sergeant after a 21-year career. Her military service included time with the U.S. Army Reserve’s 689th Quartermaster Unit at Oakland Army Base, the 6211th Transportation Unit at the Presidio of San Francisco and the 6253rd Hospital Unit at Letterman Army Medical Center.

She also worked as a quality assurance specialist with the Department of Defense at Naval Air Station Alameda. In 1991, Metcalf-Foster was injured while serving in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War.

After retiring, she found support and camaraderie at DAV and began volunteering to drive veterans to their medical appointments. She stayed active within the DAV Department of California, and in 2004, she was elected state commander.

Then in August 2017, Metcalf-Foster became the first woman to assume DAV’s highest post when she was elected national commander. She was also the first woman elected to lead a major veterans service organization.

Delphine Metcalf-Foster

“Delphine Metcalf-Foster has dedicated her life in service to our country, our community and her fellow veterans,” Rep. Thompson said in a statement. “[I’m] proud to introduce this bill to honor Ms. Metcalf-Foster for all that she has done to better our community and uplift our veterans. She is the epitome of selflessness, and this is well-deserved recognition.

“I look forward to working to pass this legislation in the House and for President Biden to sign it into law, making this a reality.”

In addition to her dedicated work with DAV, Metcalf-Foster has served as a member of the Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity board of directors, the VA Northern California Health Care System Veteran and Family Advisory Committee, the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, and the VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. She has also testified at hearings before the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees, advocating to improve outreach to and services for women veterans and all veterans.

Metcalf-Foster was born and raised in Vallejo, where she said she was the only “Delphine” in town, as well as the tallest girl and loudest in class. She had three daughters and one son, a Navy veteran who died in 1988. She also has five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, including one granddaughter who is a disabled Army veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and one great-granddaughter currently in the Army. Her late husband, Korean War Army veteran Jimmie Foster, whom she met at a DAV national convention, was also an active DAV member.

“We are incredibly proud and honored to have had Delphine as part of the DAV family for these many years,” said National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “We wholeheartedly support renaming the Mare Island VA Clinic after her as a reflection of her exceptional military career and her life of dedication to disabled veterans and their families. We hope it helps carry on the distinguished legacy of her family and inspires generations of others to serve.”

While she has been referred to as a trailblazer throughout her life—often being the first woman and first Black woman to hold positions of leadership—Metcalf-Foster credits DAV with guiding her through her post-military life and career.

“DAV has been there for me since 1996 when I retired from the Army and DOD,” she said. “Its members and leadership have given me unconditional support, love and friendship through the best and most challenging parts of my life. They gave me the confidence to serve and to lead, and for that I will always be grateful.

“This tribute, should it come to fruition, represents all of us.”