EMPORIA (KSNT) – Lesley Hedges exemplifies serving to help others.

From educating college students in ROTC, to welcoming foreign dignitaries, she worked behind the scenes to support where needed. Lesley’s lifelong career in service began with a single letter.

“I got a postcard in the mail when I was a sophomore in college,” Hedges said. “That was the first time ROTC had been on our campus here in Emporia, it was a cross enrollment program with KU. It was also the first time that women were in ROTC.” 

Through the program, army values of duty, selfless service, honor and integrity really spoke to Lesley. This led her to pursue a path of personnel management and military education.

“When I was first in I wasn’t sure how I should act, because it was one of the first times that men and women were competing against one another in a way,” Hedges said. “It actually worked out very well because everyone tried that much harder while you were there. I wasn’t sure if I needed to act masculine, or what was the best way to carry myself.”

Going through that process and finding her voice, was a lesson that not only helped her later in her career, but also with advocating for and helping other women in the military.

“I was able to talk to the women about that, they would ask me questions,” Hedges said. “Really to be yourself and have your own leadership style, you don’t have to act like a man to be an effective leader.”

Matching soldiers with open positions to make sure every unit had the right team to accomplish their mission, working on reassignments and promotions and hearing requests for compassionate reassignments, her position in management focused on working as a morale booster behind the scenes.

“Only about 10 to 15% of all people in the army actually are in combat,” Hedges said. “So all of the rest of us are in supporting roles to make sure the people that are out on the front lines have everything they need.”

Lesley is staying busy with the military even today, being involved with the American Legion, volunteering for military funeral services and teaching flag etiquette to Emporia students.

“I love that I can continue to be involved,” Hedges said. “I loved the army, and I love wearing my uniform, and I still get opportunities to do that still, and help people. Help other veterans, help young people learn how to honor the flag.”

Lesley doesn’t foresee her post-service involvement ending any time soon, making preparations for visiting schools around Emporia and surrounding small towns ahead of veterans day.