UNC Charlotte Honors Women Soldiers, Veterans
Several dozen female soldiers and veterans enrolled at UNC Charlotte were honored today with a private luncheon at the home of the school's chancellor. The number of veterans at UNC Charlotte has doubled in the last two years. At least ten percent are women. Private First Class Kristen Paganetti didn't get much encouragement from the men in her life when she decided to enlist in the Army National Guard last year. "My dad and my brother both told me I was crazy and there was no way I could make it through basic," Paganetti says with a laugh. "My dad actually flew out to Missouri for my basic training graduation, so I definitely proved them wrong." Next spring, after Paganetti graduates from UNC Charlotte with a degree in finance, her Gastonia-based guard unit is scheduled to deploy. Rebecca Huckeba's departure date will come sooner. Next week the Navy Reservist and recent UNC Charlotte graduate leaves for the Middle East. She spent the previous eight years in the Marines, waiting eagerly for a chance to deploy. "I think that's ultimately the reason you join the military is to go and serve," says Huckeba. "That was why I joined. I was always with units that didn't deploy or I was with units that just got back. The opportunity was never there. So it finally came up." Huckeba's husband and two dogs will stay behind in Charlotte while she's overseas for 11 months. The experience of deployment is a common bond for hundreds of veterans enrolled at UNC Charlotte. Their ranks have swelled to about a 1,000 in the last two years because of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and new benefits offered through the GI bill.