On Aug. 6, Chandler residents Lt. Col. Wanda Wright and Lt. Col. Susan Wehrle will be promoted to the rank of colonel at the Arizona National Guard headquarters.
The honor tastes especially sweet for Wright. She will become the Arizona Guard’s first black female colonel.
Her father, Willie Wright, served 30 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a colonel. He will fly out from North Carolina to swear her in during the ceremony.
Wright never planned to follow in her father’s footsteps — the journey just happened. But she credits her father’s generation for opening future doors.
"Even back then, there was still a lot of segregation in the military,’’ she said, noting her father’s struggles as a black Army officer during America’s civil rights movement. "I think times have changed a great deal. That’s why I’m here.’’
Wright, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, hopes her achievement inspires others to reach for similar opportunities in the military.
"I know there will be young girls out there who say, ‘Look, she made it and I can make it too.’ ’’
People may see Gilbert as a fairly well-off place, but some families there do need help.
The Gilbert Community Action Program addresses this issue by providing relief and guidance for struggling households. The town and several local organizations also chip in to ensure the program’s prosperity.
As students prepare for school to start, demand for the Gilbert program’s services rivals its two other busiest times of year — Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Espie Felix, program manager, encourages the community to donate items or
money toward the effort.
"There’s a lot of needy families in Gilbert,’’ she said.
"My goal is to always do my best for each resident and try to help them get on their feet and become self-sufficient.’’
Already active in the community when it comes to charity, the Gilbert Fire Department helped spearhead a back-to-school collection for the Gilbert program. This year, 150 children will receive backpacks and an assortment of supplies.
Capt. Mike Rudolph said the department also wants to create more awareness about the Gilbert program and its positive effect.
"We’re going to get these kids taken care of,’’ he said. "It’s just another avenue for us to give back.’’
To learn more about the Gilbert program or to make a donation, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 892-5331.