CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
Lt. Col. Dana Lonis was born in Utica, N.Y., and lives in Syracuse, N.Y. She serves as a 66 Sierra, a critical care nurse. Lonis has worked in critical care for 23 years, then went back to school to become a nurse practitioner graduating in May 2019 just prior to deployment. Married for 17 years with three children and a Great Dane named boom-boom-pow. Her hobbies are spending time with family and friends, going to the beach and skiing. Her motto to live by: "No matter what you're doing, do it well. Everything is important."
Interview of Lt. Col. Lonis by Sgt. Lacey Rogerson:
Sgt. Rogerson: Why did you choose to become an Army nurse?
Lt. Col. Lonis: I would say a combination of pragmatism and patriotism. I wanted to figure out a way to get an education, it was extremely important at the time, but I have always wanted to wear the uniform.
Rogerson: What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a woman thinking of starting a career in the military?
Lonis: Absolutely do it if it’s in your heart.
Rogerson: How important is it for women to lift each other up, and what does that mean to you?
Lonis: It’s extremely important. Not only for women, but for everyone. Civility in practice, whether it’s in the military or in your professional practice, even in your regular life, is important. Try not to bring people down, if you can’t, then do it respectfully. Always try to bring people up.
Rogerson: Absolutely, I agree. What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
Lonis: That’s a difficult one for me. Career is very important. I have a daughter that I’ve talked to about this. What’s in your heart is what you should put first. Your career might not be that. If it’s not that, then go for whatever is in your heart. Like I said, knowing yourself and knowing your goals or rolling with the changes as your goals evolve, is the most important thing. If your career is what’s your goal for that period in time, just put that first and go for it.
Rogerson: What woman inspires you and why?
Lonis: So I told you this was a hard one to answer. I am going to go with Hilary Clinton for this one, because I feel she is a trail blazer. She is certainly someone to look up to. She graduated top of her class at Yale. People should not judge you on any other fact. Definitely not gender, definitely not politics, but on what you are saying. If that’s correct, then you have to say it. Just be a trailblazer. It is probably different for younger folks, but for me I guess it would have to be her.
Rogerson: Sometimes you might make waves, but that OK if it’s the right thing.
Lonis: In my opinion, I truly believe a lot of time was spent not making waves just to be able to be heard. But then when you’re finally heard, what your saying is important and you finally have a platform, people are throwing stones at you. What you say never gets heard, just the stones are seen.
Rogerson: What have you seen change in relation to the women in the military throughout your career and what do you think has been the most significant change?
Lonis: Women in the military I feel have always had really strong mentors. As far as females in the military it has evolved and progressed in their way of allowing diversity and things of that nature. I feel that women have certainly been a part of that. Seeing women generals. They used to be sort of really rare, now you do see a few women with stars on their chest. It’s amazing. I feel the military as well as society are realizing that we have equal potential as a gender. We may not have the same physical strength but we have equal human potential, regardless of our gender. It really has little to do with much else than just going for what you want. You can do that in the military.
Rogerson: If you could meet any woman living or dead, who would you want to meet?
Lonis: Amelia Earhart. I would love to just find her plane.
Rogerson: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Lonis: Don’t drink so much. :)
Rogerson: Do you feel that you have achieved what you wanted to, and is there more to come?
Lonis: Yes and yes.
Rogerson: How can women develop a long-term career plan and who could they get advice from?
Lonis: Developing a long term career plan again has to do with your own personal goals. A lot of times people think that your career has to be perfectly suited to your heart. A lot of times that’s not true. If you’re waiting tables to try to get through school, or join the Army to finish school because you know you have this end goal, you might not put that much energy into doing that. Being good at whatever you are doing I think is very important, but again, knowing your goals, knowing yourself, knowing where you are going and putting that path as the important thing in your life is what is most important.