Liz Vacek is short in stature, but hear from her once, and you'll find no shortage of desire, work-ethic, or determination. Credit her parents for all of the above.
"That's the way they brought me up, is to give back as much as you can," said Vacek, "and there's no better way to give back than to join the services."
And while you're passing out credit for how this cadet was raised, pass some along to Vacek's grandfather, an Air Force veteran who flew in Vietnam. He's largely responsible for developing her passion for military service.
"He could tell me stories from different events that had happened," Vacek said. "I'd always ask to look at all his medals and ribbons and pins, and put on his uniform."
From her grandpa's lap to Texas A&M, the Houston native decided Aggieland was right for her. From the Trigon's second floor to Second Lieutenant -- the path Aggies in the Air Force take. It's the path Vacek travels. But she's blazing trails of her own...by virtue of being a 'she.'
"The Corps is what you make of it," she said, "and if you push yourself hard enough, you can do it. I really feel like we've been getting the opportunities to make a stand for women."
Vacek credits the leadership of the organization -- notably, Corps Commandant General John Van Alstyne -- for making the organization a more viable option in the minds of women.
Vacek is one of few women in the Aggie Band. She's one of two on Corps staff. In fact, she's one of the highest ranking female cadets in history.
And she certainly stands out as a member of the Ross Volunteers, especially to Ags who walked the campus long before women were in the Corps. Look no further than when the Class of 1956 entered the floor of Reed Arena for 2006's Muster ceremony. Vacek and other RVs were there to greet the alums with a handshake and a smile. Many were quick to comment on the fact that they'd never seen a female in the white uniform.
"It's a little hard for them to fathom at first," Vacek said. "But then they meet us and they say you belong here. You talk to old Ags all the time, and I've been very lucky to get to talk to a lot of them. It hasn't changed since Day 1. We're still a bunch of good old boys...and girls."
Speaking of blazing trails, out in the county in April, Corps staff was preparing the paths in the March to the Brazos. Vacek was, literally, right in the thick of things.
"As far as stamina and strength, men obviously have the advantage," Vacek said. "We have to push ourselves a little harder to get to that level."
There's also habits Vacek says some women entering the Corps have to kick. "A lot of females tend to take a long time getting ready," she said. "Women in the Corps learn to bypass that stage, I guess you could say."
As the Corps's operations officer, Vacek is involved in every major happening, including setting up the March to the Brazos. It's a march more and more women take each year in the Corps. But regardless of gender, one cadet, short in stature, says this group is all about rising to the occasion now and forever.
"You come in this scared little person ready to tackle the world, and then, by your senior year, you've tackled it," Vacek said. "I would not trade a second of this generation for anything because every day is developing.
"I don't look at it as being a female in the Corps," she continued. "I look at it as being a cadet in the Corps, and that's one of the attitudes that I feel like I'm really trying to change, that we all are cadets. Yes, we're male and female, but hold yourself to the same standards everyday."
You can find out more about Liz Vacek and all the cadets featured in "From the Corps" at the official Corps of Cadets website.
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