Blazing The Trail: Sandra Durbin has stood up and made an impact for all aspiring military service members just like her

Sandra Durbin is a very accomplished military veteran.

If you look at her post-military career alone, you will notice how she paved the way for many to follow along in her footsteps. Durbin was one of the first people to climb telephone poles, and in that she also put in switchboards. She did this for 15 years, setting the tone for women everywhere.

Not only that, but Durbin also went back and got a college degree in Psychology. She even worked in real estate after that as well, all of which were new to people like her during the time she did all this.

“I was a trailblazer and helped women to be more accepted in traditionally male jobs,” Durbin said. “After my military service and my job as a Systems Tech for PacBell and AT&T, I spoke at junior highs and high schools to young women about pursuing good-paying jobs and being independent. I am known today by almost all female ATCs as someone to set the pace for women in the military.”

Of course, while Durbin helped set a new standard in various places when she retired from the military, she set new standards within the military as well. She worked as an Air Traffic Controller in the US Navy, and she stood out for multiple reasons.

“I served during the Vietnam War,” Durbin said. “I am the very first black female Air Traffic Controller in the United States, thanks to the US Navy.”

Durbin truly set precedents that were never set before, and she was breaking barriers that had never been broken. She always figured, if no one else was going to be the change, then why not her.

This was not just during a time where very few black women were in the military, but very few women in general were not. Women serving back in the 60s were far and few between, and Durbin was one of the select few.

“Women back then didn’t deploy,” she said. “After ‘A’ school, I was stationed at NAS Pensacola, and then NAS North Island.”

Durbin served in the Vietnam War as well, and while she knew she was making strides for generations of war heroes to come, the veterans did not get a warm welcome home from the war. Many of her fellow servicemembers were spat on by anti-war protesters.

Despite all the controversy that surrounds the Vietnam War, Durbin still sees it as a positive, as many veterans know who she is to this very day. Who knows how different the military would look without trailblazers like Durbin.

Thankfully we do not have to think about this.

The precedent Durbin has set is truly amazing, but what is even more amazing is she has a great personality to back it all up. She is not just someone who stood in there and was different than anyone else before her, but she was someone who people genuinely enjoyed being around and helped make all the negativities of war activity seem moot at times.

“My word is my bond,” Durbin said. “I am quick witted, enjoy a good joke, and I don’t suffer fools well. I am well-traveled, educated and love reading. I have taught sewing, hat making, embroidery and ribbon work for 50-plus years.”

Is there anything Durbin cannot do?

On top of it all, she is very giving of her time. Her heart for veterans has always been there, and she does everything she can to give back to the military community.

“I am also a member of the American Legion,” Durbin said. “I only volunteer for AMVETS, because, in my opinion, we are the only VSO that requires only an honorable discharge for membership.  With the VFW, you have to have had boots on the ground during a war to be a member. With the American Legion, you have to have served during a war.”

Regardless, this does not stop Durbin from making a difference within these communities. She even served as a Post Commander for eight years before becoming the State Commander for AMVETS California.

“I volunteer and give back to my fellow veterans, working StandDowns, cooking, making wellness checks, and trying to set a good example,” Durbin said. “I love AMVETS and my AMVETS family. When I was the NEC for our Department, I got to know veterans from all over the U.S., and we all have a common thread: helping veterans.”

Helping veterans and making a difference wherever you go. That is what Durbin has been about for basically her entire life, and that is why she is as highly respected as she is. She has set the tone for decades to come, and she cannot wait to see what other important changes the military and its community implement.


Blazing the Trail

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