WATSONVILLE—The two women nominated as veterans of the year for the Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 1716 and American Legion Post 121 say they chose to join the military for similar reasons: neither knew what they wanted to do when high school ended.
But once enlisted, both say they found a career that taught them life skills and gave them the discipline they carry to this day.
Both will be honored Friday at the annual Veterans Day ceremony, with a parade beginning at 10am at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and ending at the Henry J. Mello Center. The ceremony will begin there at 11am.
American Legion Post 121 Veteran of the Year
Barbara Adamski reached the rank of Major during her service, which began in 1976 and lasted well beyond her discharge in 1980. She also served in the Army Reserve and the National Guard from 1996-2011.
Adamski underwent 17 weeks of training to be a Strategic Satellite/Microwave Systems Operator, and was stationed in Iran from 1978-79, and in Korea in 1980.
She also attended nursing school, and served as a case manager with medical/surgical nurse experience, working with Reserve soldiers returning from the Eastern states.
She spent one year at Hanscom Air Force Base, in support of Operation Iraqi Enduring Freedom.
She says she “stumbled into” the American Legion, and has since taken on a leadership role. That organization, she says, has seen declining membership, as few young people join.
That is troubling for an organization that provides veterans with hard-to-find camaraderie.
“You’ve gotta keep it going,” she said. “And it’s been a struggle. The majority of people who belong to the American Legion are in their 60s or above.”
Born and raised in Watsonville, Adamski says she met her husband in the military.
She was married in 1982 and moved to California, where her husband—a recruiter for the U.S. Army—convinced her to join the Reserves in 1996.
“It was the best for me,” she said of her time in the service. “It taught me a job. They paid for my education, they clothed me, they fed me. It was a good place for me.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1716 Veteran of the Year
As she neared the end of her time at Watsonville High School, Doreen Soto began to consider her post graduation options. One thing was clear, however.
“I wasn’t ready for college,” she said. “And I was wanting to serve other people. I thought, ‘you know what, I can see myself in a uniform.’”
She enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1998 and trained as a transportation specialist, driving vehicles ranging from forklifts to 18-wheel trucks to passenger buses.
The latter was her favorite, she says, because it afforded her the best opportunities to meet people of all stripes.
“Nobody outranks you on your bus,” she said.
This was a springboard for her current career with Watsonville-based Michaels Transportation, which provides school and charter bus services.
Her unit was deployed to Kuwait, where it was tasked with supporting military aircraft operations.
Soto occasionally wishes she stayed in the military, but says that having kids shifted her focus to wanting to be close to them.
Looking back on her experience, Soto says that the lessons one learns makes military service a good option for everyone.
“It’s not just serving in wartime in another country,” she says. “It’s the discipline you learn. And you see the world from a different place when you do serve in the military. It gives you the bigger picture and makes you want to be a better citizen and feel grateful for what you have back home.”