Melissa Novotny waited out a two-year application process to become a critical care nurse in the Army Reserve. Once being commissioned as a captain in January, she joined the 79% of soldiers continuing a family legacy of service.
Her family’s Armed Forces lineage dates to the 1700s.
“Back in high school, I took a genealogy project and discovered that my dad’s family came to America in 1639 from Wales after moving to England,” Novotny said. “But more impressive was that every generation of the Howell family since the U.S. Continental Army has had a member of the family serve in the military. This includes my own dad, Virgle Howell, who served in Vietnam. Learning all this family history, I deeply wanted to carry on that family tradition.”
A long history of service
Reviewing the list of family members serving in the military, Novotny gathered lots of inspiration.
“I am the first female to serve in the military on my dad’s side of the family,” she said.
Her relatives with a military connection can be traced going as far back as the Revolutionary War, which took place between 1775-1783.
“I discovered a ‘Sons of the Revolution’ application for Thomas Howell (1735 –1790), who served in the Revolutionary War,” Novotny said.
Just after the Revolutionary War, served in the War of 1812. A handful of Howells served in the Civil War between 1861-65. One of those was Riley J. Howell, who served with the Union Army’s 15th Northwest Infantry.
There was also Benjamin Howell, who also fought during the Civil War – for both sides. Records show he was drafted to fight for the Confederacy, but later volunteered his services to the Union Army.
While many of the Howell clan have served their country, some served with distinction, like Novotny’s grandfather Floyd Howell. While in the Army during World War II, he received a Bronze Star with clusters and a Purple Heart.
The list of family members, either drafted or enlisted, and serving the country continued through the years. That list included Howell family members serving during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.
Novotny’s father, Virgle Howell, was an infantryman stationed just outside of Saigon during the Vietnam war.
“My dad, Floyd Howell, was drafted and served under Gen. Patton during World War II,” Virgle Howell said.
Several of Virgle Howell’s uncles also served in World War II, on both the Pacific and European fronts. Another uncle served in the Korean War, while Virgle’s grandfather was in the Army during the first world war.
“Most of my relatives served with the Howell last name, though several also served in the military on my mother’s side of the family,” Virgle Howell said.
Novotny said her mother’s side of the family also has a “deep history” of service.
“My grandfather is retired from the Air Force, and my uncle served as well. And, my mom was in the National Guard just before I was born,” she said.
As far as her eventual enlistment, Novotny said that studying nursing in college, she also enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program. But scheduling conflicts didn’t allow her to complete the program.
Serving is in the blood
Once she graduated and obtained her nursing degree, that burning desire to serve in the military was reignited.
“It was still important to me to carry on that legacy of military service, and I decided to go into the Army Reserve,” Novotny said.
After her commissioning earlier this year, Novotny is now attached to the 228th Field Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.
“As a platoon leader just beginning my Army career, I am honored to serve alongside these amazing men and women,” Novotny said, “and, it’s our job to support the battlefield medically.
“I find that being in the Army is like having a family away from family. I have made amazing friends through my time in service, and I am beyond proud to be caring for soldiers and their families. That is my ultimate goal: To take care of soldiers, as a leader and as a nurse, in any way I can. I know that many women served in numerous conflicts before me, and I am very proud to continue this legacy as well.”Read comments