Meet a Few Current Wellesley Community Members Who Have Served in the U.S. Military

November 11, 2013
Sgt. Rich Palumbo of the Wellesley College Police Department

Perhaps one of Wellesley’s better-known stories of military service belongs to Mildred Helen McAfee (Horton), president of the College  from 1936 to 1949. McAfee was the first director of WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), a division of the U.S. Navy established during World War II that consisted entirely of women. She took a leave of absence from the College and became the Navy's first female line officer on August 3, 1942. Wellesley community members, women and men, have served in all branches of military service. Today, we salute all veterans and profile several members of the on-campus community who have served.

Heather Kosakowski, currently a Davis Scholar, served in the Marine Corps as a communications repair technician from 2001 to 2006. She attended boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., then Marine Combat Training and Military Occupational Specialty School. Her first duty station was the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in the eastern Sierras. Later assignments also took her to Okinawa, Japan and, for a short time, South Korea.

“It was an amazing experience and I learned a lot,” Kosakowski said. “The Marine Corps instilled in me a greater sense of discipline than what I had prior. It also gave me a greater appreciation and understanding about the world. Another thing I developed is a sincere appreciation for everything people in the military sacrifice in order to help try and ensure we continue to be guaranteed our freedoms… I will always have an immense amount of respect and admiration for military members and all of their dedication. And I will always have an instant connection with any Marine I meet— once a Marine, always a Marine. Semper Fidelis.

Kosakowski came to Wellesley after attending Massachusetts Bay Community College where she explored her interest in biology and neuroscience. Now a neuroscience major, she said she will join Professor Mike Wiest’s lab next semester where she will have the opportunity to learn about neural synchrony utilizing optogenetic techniques. After graduation, she intends to pursue a graduate degree in neuroscience.

Fellow Davis Scholar Dawn Marie Barnett served four years of active duty, 1980-84, in the Air Force after high school. Barnett “loved aircraft” and trained as a crew chief on the C-141, Starlifter, “a big cargo jet with a cockpit that seats 10 crew members and is used to perform strategic and tactical airlift missions.” Five years after her discharge, she joined the Air Force reserves as a public affairs specialist where she handled media inquiries during Desert Storm.

Barnett recently completed a film about the Town of Wellesley’s recycling center and plans to continue filmmaking. She has also completed a script about a female C-141 Air Force pilot, which she is planning to make into a feature film. One of the lessons she took away from her time in the service was, “at the end of the day, the mission was about teamwork. If something didn’t work, the entire crew troubleshot together and came up with a solution. Nobody was a star alone.”

Anna Young, associate director for operations and budgeting in the Wellesley College Admission Office, also talked about teamwork and said she learned a lot about herself during her time in the service. Young was a member of the first class of women ever to go through boot camp with men, and served as an Army combat engineer at Fort Devens, Mass. Young joined the ROTC in 1973 and graduated as a commissioned officer in 1977. She served for three-and-a-half years active duty then 10 years as a reservist working on projects like the federal environmental impact study project and leading a platoon building roads and bridges.

Sgt. Richard Palumbo of the Wellesley College Police Department served with the U.S. Army Military Police and was stationed in West Germany during the Vietnam era, from 1969 to 1972. Palumbo has worked at Wellesley College for 36 years. His daughter Lisa graduated in 2004. Palumbo said he is very proud to be a veteran and is still in touch with two fellow veterans whom he served with in Germany, “the friendships never stop,” he added.