Lt. Col. Lesbia Nieves says the most important thing she has learned from serving in the military is “If you dream and dream big, anything is possible.”
Now, Nieves is the first Hispanic woman to serve as Lieutenant Colonel in the Connecticut Army National Guard and has recently received another prestigious honor. She has been chosen to serve as one of three honorary grand marshals in this year’s Connecticut Veterans Parade, the biggest veterans parade in New England and one of the largest in the country.
Nieves was chosen for her work on behalf of veterans since she returned from Iraq. “To me, it means that my sacrifices, challenges, commitment, and hard work have not gone unnoticed. People are taking notice of all my contributions. I am able to continue to educate and advocate for veterans and be a role model in the Latino community.” She said being chosen gives her “a lot of pride and honor,” said Nieves.
The military has been a life-long interest of Nieves. She participated in the Air Force ROTC program for three years in high school in Massachusetts. “It was an interest I had very early on. It gave me a sense of unity and belonging,” she said. “The military has always had a very important role in my life.”
After high school, Nieves decided to join the Army National Guard to get help paying to further her education. She started studying at the University of Massachusetts and transferred to Southern Connecticut State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She later earned a master’s in psychology from Central Connecticut State University and a second master’s in public administration from Troy University.
A member of the Connecticut Army National Guard since 1987 and a graduate of the Officer Candidate School, she has held many leadership positions before being promoted to her current rank in April 2014.
Her success in the military however has come challenges during her service. “As a Latina, it took a lot of will, perseverance and determination to believe that you have earned a seat at that table because of your own hard work and commitment to serving this country. We continue to be a minority as females and Latinos, and have to work a little harder to overcome barriers. I learned the importance of educating, speaking up, advocating on your behalf and on behalf of others, staying true to my values, leading by example, and personal courage.”
Nieves is a board member of the Connecticut Veterans Memorial Foundation and is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Women Veterans’ Memorial Task Force. Nieves is a past president of the Hispanic-American Veterans of Connecticut, Inc.
A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, she was mobilized in December 2003 and served in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005. She was nominated for the role of honorary grand marshal by Past Commissioner Linda S. Schwartz of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs.
The 15th Annual Connecticut Veterans Parade will be held in Hartford on
Sunday, November 2nd at 12:30. For more information you can visit: http://ctveteransparade.org/