For the first time in the history of the U.S. Army, two sisters have attained general’s rank, Paula Lodi, 51, was promoted to brigadier general July 12, joining her sister, Maj. Gen. Maria Lodi Barrett, 53.
Fathers and sons have risen to general, including Gen. George Casey, who retired as Chief of Staff of the Army; his father, Maj. Gen. George Casey, Sr., was killed in action in Vietnam. Then there’s the Brooks family. Leo Brooks retired as a brigadier general, and his sons Leo, Jr., and Vincent, went on to become a one- and a four-star general respectively. There is even a wife-and-husband team of three-stars: Laura and James Richardson.
According to USA Today, the military didn’t officially accept women into its ranks until the Army Nursing Corps was established in 1901. Women, of course, served unofficially before that, some in disguise since the Revolutionary War, according to the U.S. Army Women’s Museum.
“Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi represent the best America has to offer,” said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. “However, this comes as no surprise to those who have known them and loved them throughout this extraordinary journey. This is a proud moment for their families and for the Army.”
Barrett and Lodi’s father and role model, Ruston, was a veteran of World War II and a recipient of the Silver Star, though he hardly ever spoke about his service.
“They were two just beautiful girls growing up,” said their brother Rus. “Maria would do something academically that just blew us away, while Paula was doing something athletically, flipping off a diving board, before anybody else. They have just been a great source of pride and admiration our entire life.”
Barrett, who said she joined the military to pay for her school, said her parents stressed public service to her and her four siblings.
“Both of my parents were school teachers,” Barrett said. “When my mother started having children, she got out, but she continued to be active in the community. So I do think probably underlying everything is that service component to it.”
“If you’re a little girl, and your father responds positively to something that you want to do with your life, you tend to grab ahold of it,” Lodi said.
For Barrett, it came down to the financial assistance she was going to get for school. While she intended on having a career at the State Department, the Army drew her in.
Now, Lodi is the deputy chief of staff for operations in the Army’s Surgeon General’s office; her sister commands the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM).
New Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville called Barrett and Lodi “exceptional, proven leaders who’ve distinguished themselves over the course of their career at various levels of command during multiple combat tours.”
The idea of two related women rising to the most senior ranks of the Army speaks volumes to how far women have come in military service — it was only four years ago that every combat role was opened for women. Just recently, the first female airman earned her Ranger tab, and last year, the first female enlisted soldier did the same.
Barrett said when she talks to young soldiers, she tells them the reason she joined, “is not the reason why I stayed.”
“Our democratic experiment, even on its most imperfect day, is worth defending.”