45-year-old Salem Woman Realizes Dream of Joining National Guard

Fourty-five-year-old Jennifer Hughes of Salem is realizing a long held dream that she didn’t ever know she’d realize: being a member of the Army National Guard. And in a matter of just a few weeks, she will enter Basic Training to put her one major step closer to that goal.

Hughes, who is also a wife, mother of four daughters and elite marathon runner, was first introduced to Serve Daily readers last year when she was awarded the Brooks Running Inspiring Coaches grand prize as a track and cross country coach for Salem Hills High School. In that article, readers were made aware of the challenges she faced following a car accident several years ago that threatened her ability to walk, let alone, run.

The list of accomplishments for Hughes is long, but she is quick to say that she has always wanted to serve her community and country, and is both scared and excited for what lies ahead.

“I have been overwhelmed with all the love and support from everyone,” she said. 

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. … I am scared of what lies ahead, scared of the unknown, scared that I won’t be strong enough, or that I’m too old, afraid of what people are going to think of me. And I am most terrified of failing. So many insecurities but also one of my reasons for doing this. I love this Country! I have always admired the men and women that serve our Country on all different levels and jobs.”

She said that she doesn’t want her fears and insecurities to stop her, and that her husband and daughters have been helping her overcome them.

“I don’t want my fears and insecurities to stop me from doing things in life,” she said. “I love to push myself beyond what I think I am capable of, show people and the youth that you can do hard things and it is never too late to go for your dreams. I want my husband and my girls to know that I really would not be pursuing this if it wasn’t for them and their support. They are so strong and encouraging. My husband has been my rock and when I had my doubts and fears, he would talk me through it to help me see that it’s going to be OK. 

“My daughters are amazing young women!” she continued. “My oldest told me that if I didn’t do this and this is what I wanted to do, she would be disappointed. I want my friends and  everyone I work with – those that I coach and have coached –  that it’s because of them that I want to be a better person.”

Hughes said that while she has long wanted to serve her country, it was after a visit from an Army recruiter that got her thinking about it again. That recruiter was Tyler Bishop who said that at first, he didn’t know if Hughes was too old to join. Thankfully, after a couple of years of finding different exceptions, gaining permissions, signing documents and proving she is physically capable of doing the job, Hughes was approved – with flying colors. 

“Jen wrote a statement expressing all that she has accomplished with all the athletic pursuits that she is currently and still participating in, and this absolutely helped with getting that exception to policy approved,” Bishop explained. 

Bishop also explained that with Hughes’ running ability, there is a chance that she could continue to compete for the National Guard.

“We actually have something similar to a professional athlete program, and so that’s something that we’ve discussed for her to pursue where she may be able to go and actually run and represent the military.”

While Hughes will no doubt take advantage of the opportunity to continue to showcase her running talents within the National Guard, she has enlisted in the Air National Guard with the goal to serve as a chaplain. 

On behalf of the community, Serve Daily wishes Hughes well in the coming months, and thanks her and all the servicemen and women for their service. 

Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown is a mom of nine who writes columns for many local and national publications. She currently resides in Payson, and enjoys looking for good happenings in her area and sharing them for others to read about. For more of her stories, search "A Mother's Write" on Facebook.

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