SARASOTA - Every Monday on ABC 7 News we pay tribute to an amazing Suncoast woman; a woman who has overcome difficult obstacles while achieving great things for the people around her. On this Memorial Day we salute a retired Army colonel who dedicated her life to serving her country.
Retired Colonel Linda Gould has come full circle. She started 1st grade at Southside Elementary School in Sarasota, and rose to the very top of the military world -- in many cases becoming the first woman to crash through the Army's glass ceiling.
In 2011 she retired to Sarasota, but her devotion to her fellow servicemen and women continues to drive her.
Gould says even as a little girl,she knew she wanted to serve her country like her father.
"He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel three-war veteran: World War II, Korea, Vietnam."
It was a proud day when he commissioned her 2nd Lieutenant at University of South Florida in 1982. But she still had mountains to climb. "I started out as a military intelligence officer. That was my branch for the entire time. But 20 of the 29 years I served as a foreign area officer, and my area of the world was Latin America."
As she proved herself, the promotions kept coming. "I really was very blessed and was able to be the first woman in the Army to command a U.S. military group in Latin America, and that was in Guatemala."
It was a huge accomplishment for a woman in the military in those days. "I think we felt we had to work twice as hard to be recognized as equal at that time."
Gould's work received recognition from high-ranking officials, including President George W. Bush.
Then, after serving for 29 years, she retired a she and Harvey the cat moved to Sarasota. "My mother lives here, my sister teaches at Pine View, my brother-in-law flies for American Airlines, he flew in the Air Force, and my younger brother is still on active duty, Colonel in the Air Force."
She's not resting on her laurels. "I am co-chair of the State Convention for Military Officers Association, and I am also volunteering with the U.S. Masters swimming organization."
And she's working with the Patterson Foundation to build Patriots Plaza. “It will be a 2,800 seat ceremonial amphitheater that will be out at Sarasota National Cemetery. They've started the construction; they expect the national dedication to be in the spring of 2014. It has commissioned art work. It will be a place where families can go and reflect on their loved ones."
The Sarasota National Cemetery is the first to have a plaza like it.
Gould is heading up the Legacy of Valor campaign, planning events leading up to its grand opening. "There are amazing things happening, from concerts within our fine arts community that will honor veterans, to the five Habitat for Humanity are doing repairs to veterans homes, to flag protocol and education currently being written for the school system."