Daughters inherit mother’s love of service

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lynn M. Means
  • 136th Airlift Wing

For the Menkens, military service is now a family business.  Growing up in a large family with limited options for a college education, Lisa was the first woman in her family to serve in the military. Though she wasn’t pushed toward the military, she looked to her father’s time in service, and her decision was easily made.

“With eight kids in one house, college just wasn’t in the cards for me,” said Tech. Sgt. Lisa Menken, a contract specialist with the 136th Mission Support Group. “But my dad was in the Air National Guard.  So, through him, I learned there was a viable option to gain career skills and even go to college if I joined the military.”

Lisa took the next step and joined the Oregon Air National Guard as a contract specialist, working in the same unit as her father.

“When I joined, I started serving on drill weekends together with my dad,” said Lisa, smiling as she reminisced. “These are very special memories for me, definitely not typical father-daughter memories to have. We would drive to the base together and have breakfast in the morning before drill. It always struck me as a sweet thing for him to do.”

Through her service, Lisa was able to learn valuable skills in contracting, and she built her career through the ANG while working directly for the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office in Salem, Oregon. During her time there, Lisa said her military affiliation met with some resistance, as locals picketed the base.  The area was not considered military friendly. But most surprising was the opposition when she met her soon-to-be husband, Curtis.

“His friends discouraged him from dating me, as they had an idea of what military women were like,” said Lisa. “There seemed to be a stigma against women in the military at the time. But Curtis was a prior Marine, so we already had that military connection.”

Lisa and her husband went on to have four children, and have become the cornerstone on which two of their daughters and their son, as well as Lisa’s own sister, stood to take their oaths to this Nation.

“We are so proud of our children,” said Lisa. “They came to the decision to serve on their own, and each has taken their own route.  Our son served in the Navy on active duty for more than seven years. Our daughters saw that their mom served, and weren’t afraid to take that leap as well.”

In 2017, their middle child, Charissa, joined her mom in the Air National Guard as soon as a position opened in Public Affairs.

Now when we drill together, it’s very reminiscent of when I drilled with my dad,” said Lisa. “It feels like that’s the way it should be.  I drilled with my dad, now she’s drilling with me.  It’s kind of that family throwback.  Even though we haven’t had breakfast before drill, we’ve gone to lunch together.  I think we should start that tradition again.”

Now a broadcast journalist with the 136th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, Charissa says she is thrilled to have the chance to serve with her mom.

“I’m so happy to take hold of this unique opportunity at this age, where I get to serve alongside my mom,” said Charissa. “I think there’s something really special in working and serving your country with your family. I was inspired by her resiliency through service, and wanted to challenge myself to become a leader as she had.”

Lisa’s youngest, Savannah, is now a cadet in the Air Force Academy.  She is set to graduate in 2021, and will become an officer in the Air Force. 

“Savannah is at the Academy because I gave her a pamphlet,” said Lisa. “There was no arm twisting. She’s so open to new things, and she’s fearless, so she took a leap and joined the Academy. She’s since taken a flight in a glider to get a feel for aeronautics, and even jumped out of a plane. She’s had opportunities to experience things she wouldn’t normally get to do.”

Lisa’s military service has paved the way for other women in her family to join the military.  She has established her family’s legacy of women in service, and looks proudly toward the legacy of the women who served before her.

“I really didn’t think about it then as being the first woman in my family to serve,” said Lisa. “But it is such a cool legacy to have served.  It’s not really about you, but everyone that came before you.  I’m proud to serve because of everyone that’s come before us. We represent their legacy, too.”