Mt. Jewett girl races from high school track to Army colonel

Photo by Ted Lutz — Some of the dignitaries at the Tribute To Veterans held Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in Kane include, left to right: Brandy Schimp, mayor of Kane; the Rev. Calvin Cook, pastor of the church on Greeves Street; Glenn "G.T." Thompson, member of Congress; Retired U.S. Army Col. Lisa Forsyth, a Mt. Jewett native who was the guest speaker; and Jill Grosch and Coleen Lundeen, coordinators for the program.
By: 
Ted Lutz
Staff Writer

Lisa Forsyth of Mt. Jewett has always moved forward with a purpose.
As a senior at Kane Area High School in 1983, Forsyth anchored the two-mile relay that came from behind on the last lap to win this key event and give Kane the team championship in the county track meet in Sheffield.
Then, as a member of the U.S. Army, Forsyth overcame one obstacle after another to rise from the lowly rank of private to a "full-bird" colonel — one of the highest leadership positions in the military.
Speaking Sunday at the annual Veterans Day program at the First United Methodist Church in Kane, Forsyth told the crowd of 400 how her success in that county track meet relates to her remarkable achievements during a 33-year career in the Army.
"My focus was on that finish line," Forsyth said in looking back on the 1983 county track meet. 
She said she passed the race leader on the "final turn" on the last lap.
"As we ran down the final stretch, I heard the sound of my opponent's cleats hitting the cinder track," Forsyth said. "She is right behind behind me and wants to win this race. But I wanted it more. I'm going to make the most of this opportunity. There's the finish line. I reach for it and run through it."
When she entered the military, Forsyth said she "felt pressure to succeed — just like that track day."
"I was moving with a purpose," she said. "More times than not, as I reached for that next rung on the ladder, I was met with obstacles."
The first time she applied for officers' candidate school, Forsyth said she was "denied." She said a commander told her it would be "a waste of training dollars" to accept a woman who would soon "get married and resign."
Not deterred by this remark from a superior, Forsyth applied again —  and was chosen. Believing the Army had her pegged for "a desk job," Forsyth said she pressed forward and eventually received a chance to attend airborne school.
She said she met "merciless hazing every day," but responded "with a smile and overzealous enthusiasm."
"I graduated at the top of my class," Forsyth said. "I was making the most of this opportunity."
She had her eyes set on becoming a "successful" Army officer at Fort Bragg, N.C. — the largest military installation in the world. Again, she faced obstacles. It took her 13 years to receive this coveted assignment.
Forsyth graduated from a competitive resident command and general staff college and was named to a post with Special Forces. This achievement led to a position at the Pentagon.
"Honestly, I found myself at times exhausted from the struggle to climb over, run through or side-step obstacles," Forsyth said. "It would have been easy not to seek out challenging assignments. Fortunately, I was able to overcome most of those obstacles. I had purpose and made the most of my opportunities."
Now retired, Forsyth manages a ranch at her residence in San Antonio.
Although she's had a fantastic and rewarding Army career and has served at bases throughout the world, Forsyth still is that small town girl at heart.
"I am proud to be from Mt. Jewett and a graduate of Kane Area High School," Forsyth said. "God bless America."
The two-hour "Tribute To Veterans" at the church featured the singing of several patriotic songs.
The Rev. Calvin Cook, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Kane, gave the call to worship. The service included several hymns and prayers.
In his message, Cook said "God is always there for American veterans."
"By keeping our hearts focused in God, there's no way we're going to lose," he said.
Coleen Lundeen and Jill Grosch are coordinators of the annual Veterans Day program that draws hundreds of Kane residents and other patriots from near and far.
Bob Arnold and Harold Hallberg of Kane presented Lundeen with a plaque to salute her for organizing the Veterans Day program for over 25 years.
Grosch, master-of-ceremonies for the program, recognized members of the branches of the Armed Forces, those planning to serve their country, families of those serving in the military and families of fallen soldiers.

For full article, check the Nov. 12, 2018 printed or e-edition of The Kane Republican.

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