Veterans Make History and Opportunity Every Day

Ellen Houlihan

Ellen Houlihan is being honored as a Women Veteran Leaders Champion of Change.

I am honored and privileged to be selected as a White House Champion of Change during Women’s History Month. I am especially honored to be recognized for my U.S. Army service and veteran status. I was among the first decade of women who integrated West Point and its previously all male student population. I was the first West Point woman graduate to be elected president of my West Point class, and first West Point woman graduate to be elected president of a local alumni club. It was not my goal to carve out history, I just wanted to be part of the strategy and action toward outreach to West Point graduates from all generations and career paths. Veterans come in all generations, shapes, sizes, colors, and skills. I have found that a common thread among all veterans is their love of country and their willingness to be part of something bigger than themselves. And veterans understand service—service to others and to their communities. 

The work I accomplish as a volunteer leader serves West Point, as a national treasure and premier leadership institution. My volunteer work also serves Veterans who transition from active service to private citizen in professional careers or in volunteer roles in their communities. I led the governance transformation of our not for profit organization to align with efficient and effective business practices. Acceptance of the transformation was challenging as the organization had not effected much change in its structure since just after the Civil War. Lately, I seek to identify what skills and experiences are needed in the next decade to foster growth and continued relevance of our West Point Board of Directors and Advisory Council to West Point and to West Point veterans.

Veterans are accustomed to all sorts of transitions—transitions from specialty schooling, transition to new assignments, and, eventually, transition to private citizen. Because every Veteran must first learn to lead themselves, many veterans are great candidates to grow the engine of our economy, creating small businesses. Their respective service training and experience provide a background for solving problems, implementing change, and identifying and recruiting talent. Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) is a powerful resource for expertise and experience from other small business owners.  

All veterans make history every day by being an example of service to our Nation. Make your own history by volunteering for service in your community or in your professional life. Every act of service makes a difference. You never know when your service will influence another person to step up with their own service.

Ellen Houlihan is Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, West Point Association of Graduates, a non-profit organization to serve West Point and its graduates. From the day of its founding on March 16, 1802, West Point has grown in size and stature, yet remains committed to the task of producing commissioned leaders of character for America's Army. Today, the Academy graduates more than 900 new officers annually, which represents approximately 25 percent of the new lieutenants required by the Army each year. The student body, or Corps of Cadets, numbers 4,200, of whom approximately 15 percent are women.

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