Emily Lilly is the first woman in the entire national guard to graduate from Army Ranger School – and she’s only 38 years old.
A decade ago, she had no idea she would achieve such a historic distinction. Joining the military was the farthest thing from her mind.
“Things change as you get older,” said a smiling and confident Lilly who enlisted in the West Virginia National Guard at the age of 33.
Lilly wanted to do something different, so after attaining two college degrees and working at a very stable retail management job – and with two younger children at home, she quit her job to serve her country.
“Children change you,” said First Lieutenant Lilly, “So when my children were two and three i decided i wanted to do something to make them proud.”
Her grandfather served as an calvary turned armor officer during World War II, so a chance to follow in his footsteps would be in the offing for Lilly.
When the military opened up combat branches to women, Lilly jumped at the chance.
“I immediately called the squadron commander and said ‘I want to switch..I want to rebranch to armor. What do i have to do?’ He said i knew you were going to ask, so i am already looking into it. (laughing).”
From there, her eyes were set on Army Ranger School.
“It’s the most difficult thing I have done before in my life,” said Lilly.
After completing the demanding course, she earned a coveted Ranger tab and is now forging a path – not only for woman , but all of her soldiers back at home in West Virginia.
“When i came back to my unit a lot of guys were like ‘yeah I wanna do this.’ And I said yeah absolutely. Just think if it ever gets really bad, and it sucks really bad, just think a 38 year old woman just did this. You should be able to do it.”