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Lt. Col. Graham breaks barriers

Graham’s Aunt Jean Palmer was her inspiration to join the military. She served in the Women’s
Army Corps during WWII and was the first elected African American elected official 
in Paris, Tenn.

Retired Army Lt. Col.Wanda Bruce Graham dedicated her working life to the military, receiving many accolades as she rose to the position of lieutenant colonel while overcoming challenges as an African American woman in the military.

Rhein Main Air Base, Worms, Germany. Graham served as operations officer and executive officer to the 2nd Replacement Battalion in 1991. Left: Graham served as Company Commander with the 30th Adjutant General Corps Reception Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1988.     
Graham was influenced by early role models in her own family, who helped pave the way for excellence. Her aunt and two uncles served in World War II, while her father served during the Korean War and retired from the U.S. Air Force. Her older brother served in the war in Vietnam.
Graham’s aunt, Jean Palmer, was her first inspiration in considering a military career. Graham always enjoyed looking at faded pictures and hearing stories about her accomplished aunt who had served in the Women’s Army Corps during WW II.
“I always loved to look at a photo of her with other African American soldiers standing in front of the Eiffel Tower,” Graham said.
She now wears a silver Eiffel Tower charm around her neck, a symbol that reminds her that she and her aunt have ventured from Paris, Tenn. to Paris, France during their military service.
Her aunt was also the first African American elected official in Paris, Tenn, where Graham was born.
Throughout Graham’s career, she held top positions in evaluating and processing officers for placement in the army as part of the human resources duties of a personnel and administrative officer.
She earned her bachelor’s of science degree in business administration  from Austin Peay State University and her master’s  in management from Troy State University in Alabama in 1988, while assigned to duty at Fort Benning, Georgia.
She was even appointed the first woman and the first African American woman to serve as company commander with the 30th Adjutant General Corps Reception Battalion at Fort Benning.
Eventually, she went on to lead the international placement of military officers and enlisted personnel throughout Europe while stationed at Rhein Main Air Base in Worms, Germany. There she served as operations officer and executive officer to the 2nd Replacement Battalion in 1991.
One of her most memorable assignments included two years in Washington, DC at the Pentagon, as a  personnel policy officer where she learned more about the internal operations of the Army. She also supervised a civilian staff member who was later killed during the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. 
“Ms. Lisa Young is one of the many people throughout my career that I’ll never forget,” Graham said. 
Before retiring in 2003, she served as Commander of Joint Military Postal Activity for the Atlantic region at JFK International Airport in New York City where she managed all military mail for the western hemisphere.
Graham said that making a commitment to the military and upholding a standard of excellence contributes to the values required to advance in the field.
“Be excellent in your career field. You have to be more than proficient, but exceptional at your craft,” Graham said.
She has been married to her husband, William D. Graham for 29 years. He served as Marine Corps Master Sergeant and retired as a civilian in the Department of Navy. Graham currently serves on boards and committees of many community organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Friends of the Brentwood Library and the Williamson County Election Commission. She  resides in Brentwood with her husband. 

Posted on: 11/9/2013


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