“After so many instances where people have questioned or said, ‘You don’t look like a military person,’ or ‘That’s not what the Air Force looks like…” After so many years, it felt good to say ‘I did that. I did that!’” — Katy Doggett
Somewhere between becoming a mil spouse and an unpleasant conflict in a Lowe’s parking lot, Katy Doggett began to avoid sharing her experience as an Air Force Veteran – thanks to the doubters and push-back she often received. But since sharing her story with LadyVet she’s now the one pushing back – so that other female veterans don’t face the same biases and misconceptions. In this episode of Stories from the Field, hear more about Katy’s journey from “invisible veteran” to an empowered leader who’s now creating a new chapter of her life in Germany.
Transformational Moments in this Episode:
- Katy’s experience growing up as a biracial kid in Wisconsin
- What compelled her to finally share her personal story of being an “invisible vet”
- What it’s like to fly in a jet – and what it can teach us about appreciating another person’s reality
- Life as a US government employee, Mom, and world explorer in Germany
Hear the Full Episode On:
About Katy Doggett
As a biracial adopted child raised in the suburb of Milwaukee by her white grandparents, Katy Doggett’s life has been interesting to say the least! At age 18 she joined the Air Force, becoming the first and only female in her family to join the military. Joining the military was just ‘something to do’ after high school, but little did Katy know that that decision would shape the rest of her life.
After four years, Katy left the Air Force and pursued her degree. Today she’s a Civilian Employee working with the Dept. of the Army living in Germany for the second time with her Active Duty husband and twin son and daughter.
Proof of Service Please: One Woman’s Journey from Proud Airman to Invisible Veteran
Jason Rebello: Katy, thank you so much for joining us today. You have such an incredible story and I can’t wait for our listeners to get a sense of who you are and your journey. So I’d love to give you the opportunity to just share a little bit about yourself, your experience growing up as a biracial kid, your path to the military and how it’s impacted who you are today.
Katy Doggett: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for having me on. I’ve said it before, but this is my very first time. So I hope that I don’t disappoint anybody who’s listening or watching or whatever but I’m Katy Doggett. I grew up in Brown Deer, Wisconsin and I was adopted as a baby. And my parents that raised me are my grandparents. I grew up with two white parents as a biracial child in a suburb of Milwaukee in the ’80s. And I put in my bio that I rocked an Afro until I think like about eighth grade and wore corduroy pants. And I felt like I was the cool kid and I probably wasn’t, but I didn’t know any better. My parents and my family they loved me. I loved going to school. I didn’t have a ton of friends, but the friends I had were good.
Katy Doggett: So I moved to Louisiana. I got a relaxer, not anymore, but now I was all natural now, but and graduated from high school from there. And I just didn’t have a direction. Like where am I going? What am I going to do? And my parents, they were very relaxed. They just wanted me to be happy. They didn’t have any expectations. College was like an option. If I wanted to, I could just do whatever. And one day my mom said, “Do you want to take the ASVAB test?” And I was like, “What’s the ASVAB test?” I had no idea, my dad was in the army, but I didn’t grow up as a military brat. He retired once I was born. So I didn’t really live that lifestyle, I just got the benefits. So I said, “Sure. I’ll take the ASVAB. Sure. Why not?”
Katy Doggett: And I went, took the test. They said, “Hey, do you want to join the air force?” And I was like, “Sure.” They gave me some money. They said, “In four months you go off to basic training.” And I was like, “Okay,” and that was literally the jumpstart of a new life, a life that I really truly needed looking back. I was just flailing in the wind like a kite with no direction and no anchor. I was just out there and I really don’t know what would have happened had I not had the structure of the military. And so I am thankful for it every day because it gave me direction. It gave me purpose. It gave me drive. It gave me discipline. It gave me a feeling of service. It gave me love for something bigger and bigger than myself. So often I feel like we get lost in just our own, who we are.
Katy Doggett: And the military really gave an ability to see outside of myself. I wasn’t going to be selfish anymore. Like I was willing to die for my country and that’s pretty big. That’s pretty big. So I did the military thing and I thought, this is not really for me. Which in hindsight it was like the worst decision to get out. I wish I could have went back and just be tired and live that life. But I got out after four years and I’m married back into the military. And so now I’m a military spouse as a veteran. So I’m a veteran and mil spouse. So I’ve been able to still serve my country, but in a different capacity where I can help my husband by being the best version of myself so that he can now serve his country and put his life on the line and live that life.
Katy Doggett: So after I’d married the military, moved and moved and moved, I now work for the government. So I’m a veteran, I’m a mil spouse and I’m a government employee. So I still get to give back and I still get to see the bigger picture and I still get to have that service and the drive and the passion, just all of those things that for me, the military gave me as an 18 year old, just green individual. It gives me that every day. So like today I went to work and I am exhausted from work, but I know that what I did today matters. It’s helping somebody and that somebody is helping somebody else. So that’s who I am and where I started and where I am today.
Jason Rebello: Thank you so much, Katy. And thank you and your family for your service as well.
Katy Doggett: It’s been an honor. To this moment it’s been an honor.
Oana Amaria: Katy, I think oftentimes as I shared with you, one of our shared values is the sub-service leadership. And I think that oftentimes people don’t understand the sacrifice that our service people make. And when I remember reading your interview, the lady that interviewed you and your story, and we’ll definitely share that with our listeners, just your sense of feeling invisible. And to me, it was just such a emotional reading to be able to have you share something like that. And so I’m very curious. And if you could share with us what made you decide to step out of your comfort zone and share your feelings about becoming invisible as a female vet and what did you hope the impact would be? Because I think that’s the other really big piece. Yeah.
Katy Doggett: So I don’t love talking about myself. I really feel like I’m just a regular person just living her best life. And so when I was approached to do that article, I at first didn’t want to do it. I was like, I don’t really have a story. I was only in for four years. It’s not a big deal. And she literally said to me, she was like, you still wrote a blank check of your life. You said that you were willing to die for this country. So your story matters. It’s a part of history. In some way, shape or form, your name is still written somewhere in our country. It made me step out of my comfort zone by saying, oh, for sure. Yeah. I’ll tell you my little bitty story just like when you guys asked for me to do this, I was like, but why? I’m not really that interesting.
Katy Doggett: I’m just me. But I think that some of that feeling is because since I got out to this moment, people don’t really look at me like I’ve been in the military. They look at me like I am the spouse of a military member. They look at me like, I’m just a government employee of the government. And so I’ve felt that way because that’s how people usually perceive me. And so I always have these conversations with men usually, and they will say, “You are in the military?” And that’s always so defeating feeling because if I was a man, they would never ever say, “You were in the military?” They would say, “Of course you were in the military, ” or, “I knew that, yeah.” I remember this or this, or where were you stationed, blah, blah, blah. It’s never a question or validation to a man, but it’s always the validation or so it’s been in my experience, the validation that I have to prove that I was in the military.
Katy Doggett: And so after years and years of having to basically fight to say, “Yes. I was in the military. I just backed away.” And really just didn’t even acknowledge it. Like I love veterans day, but I never would tell anybody, even my children, they forget, that I was in the military because we just don’t talk about it because my husband is active duty and he’s the forefront and whatever and I love that. And I support him and all of that for 20 years. Please don’t do the math at my age. So I’ve just always just pushed that off. And I was a different chapter of my life. It just happened and it was awesome, but it’s no longer who I am. And so when I was doing that article, it really gave me the opportunity to feel proud. And I probably will cry.
Katy Doggett: I’m a crier. I get emotional, but it was an opportunity for somebody else to say that I did a good job. Not because I needed it, but because I had never been told that. And it’s not like we, as humans have to be patted on the back. And it’s not like I did my service to be patted on the back. But after so many instances where people have questioned or something, you don’t look like a military person, or that’s what the air force looks like after so many years, it felt good to say I did that. I did that. So that’s what made me step out of my comfort zone and just do it. I hope that it helps somebody. I hope that it inspired somebody to also step out of the darkness and into the limelight. I feel like sometimes being in the spotlight is very uncomfortable. Like right now I’m super uncomfortable. But there’s also nothing wrong with it if you use it in the right light.
Jason Rebello: Yes. Yes. Your blog, one of the sections you wrote was about understanding the vital importance of a good fit. And that was one of my favorite pieces for multiple reasons. One is because it’s actually always been my dream to actually be able to go up in a jet. I have 100%. Like it’s always been, because I can imagine just how different a reality it is to be in that space. And you share in your blog, the importance of how that helped you, how it really transformed, how you approached your job and your role, because you had that experience.
Jason Rebello: I know this is a long way to get to this question, but I feel like part of what we do in our work is about how can we create experiences for people to literally experience something that they normally would never have the opportunity to feel, to go through and hopefully walk away with, like in your situation, just a completely different appreciation for someone else’s reality and what they go through. Fast forward now, your husband is still active military and now you’re living this experience in another country with your twins, biracial woman, raising multiracial children. What is that experience like? What is the reality of that world? And if you have any other good stories about your time in the jet, please feel free to share those as well.
Katy Doggett: I’ll share the planes first. It was a really cool experience. And I will say that most people, even in the military, even in the air force, don’t get that experience. It’s not like everybody. So I honestly didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to. It was not a dream. It was not like, oh, I can’t wait to do it because I was dreading it. But I got my gear. I fitted my mask and made sure everything was going to fit properly for myself. And I went out to that jet and it was an hour long flight. And when I say hour long, I’m not talking like Delta flights. You get up, you cruise, you sleep, you eat a snack watch movie. No. It was you’d fly, you drop down, you drop an imaginary bomb and you come straight back up pulling GS. So you’re like, it was just not a cute face, but that’s literally, right?
Katy Doggett: So you’re pulling these GS and it’s exhausting. You sweat like crazy. Now mind you, we were in south Georgia where I was stationed. So it’s already hot. You’re sweating profusely. And if you aren’t used to that, or if you had any sort of motion sickness, you can imagine what will happen also. So in this flight, so there’s only the pilot and then yourself. So there’s only two seats and it’s just the laps, that’s it. So you can see out, you can do all that. Once we touched back down and we taxied in and I got out of that flight, I literally just laid on the concrete and just laid there because it was exhausting. But afterwards, as I had recovered and reflected, it was true that I had this new found appreciation for what my pilots did every day. I no longer mentally complained about them coming in and say, “Oh, I need you to redo this.
Katy Doggett: Oh, I need you to redo that. Oh, can you refit this or whatever,” because I had been literally in their seat. And like you said, it’s not often that we can physically move ourselves and put ourselves in another person’s light. But for that I did and it was awesome. And I think part of that job that I did really made me love serving others because I love customer service. I love chatting with people, helping them out and all of that. And I think that some of that love came from that job. So that is my jet story and if you ever wanted one, there probably are ways that you could do it, figure it out. Maybe we could def but anyways…
Jason Rebello: Yeah. I’ll follow up with that.
Katy Doggett: But yeah. So my husband’s still active duty and he retires next year if he wants to, of course. But he is eligible for retirement next year. So that’s 20 years of being with him. So we met the day that he commissioned. So I have been with him every step of his way and a very fun story. I actually taught him how to roll his sleeves. So as officers, they don’t really teach all these little things, but enlisted people, we know all of these really cool things like rolling our… It’s not really a cool thing, but anyway, but it was really interesting because here he is, officer, blah, blah, blah. And here I am little enlisted and I was teaching him how to roll his sleeves. It was really just cool moments. But so anyway. So 20 years next year, and we have really had a great life.
Katy Doggett: We’ve lived in Georgia, we’ve lived in Texas, we’ve lived in Las Vegas, we lived in Montana and then we’ve lived in Germany. Then we moved to Virginia and then I got a job and brought myself and subsequently the family back to Germany. And being in the military is just awesome. Being a mil spouse, I love it. I think it’s an honor. I think that it is a privilege. I wish that more people understood that it’s not for the faint of heart by any stretch. He’s deployed many times. He’s gone a lot. We’re separated quite a bit. We’re separated now. So it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but I wouldn’t change it or trade it for anything. We have two amazing kids. They’re 12, the twins. They don’t know any other life other than a military life. So they literally have moved one.
Katy Doggett: So they moved from Texas to Las Vegas, Montana, to Germany, to Virginia. And now they will move back to Germany and they are 12. They’ve gone to five schools. This will be their sixth school. And they are in seventh grade. That’s a lot. And they don’t know a stranger. They don’t know what it’s like to not be the new kid and have to transform themselves into a new person every couple of years. And I admire them for that because it’s not easy. It’s not easy being the new person. And it’s not easy to walk into a classroom or into an office space and be the new person and be confident in who they are. Sorry about the vendor. And they are very resilient. They have lived in hotels for weeks on end. I call them hometels because wherever we are is our home. And so I call that our hometown.
Katy Doggett: So it’s like a little family thing, but they were 92 days old when we moved our very first time and they don’t know anything else. And so it’s awesome and they can’t wait. So they aren’t here yet. They get here in two weeks. They are so excited to get back here to Germany. So this is our second time living here and we’ve loved living in Germany. We love to Europe just as a whole. And the second time around was a choice. So our first time around with my husband being active duty, the government, the military tells us where to go and we were fortunate, very happy, super thankful, lived our best lives, whatever.
Katy Doggett: But this time around, I chose this job and I chose it because I wanted to get my children and my husband and myself out of the US and into a country that wasn’t going to hurt us or try to kill us or profile us or degrade us or marginalize us or not get us the same opportunities and I made that choice. And obviously I talked to my husband about it and we decided as a family that I didn’t want that for my children right now. I just felt like the temperature in the United States was just bad for lack of a better word. So we’re very happy to be here in Germany. I will say that race is still a thing. However, in Germany, people look at us, not out of what are you going to do to me, or are you going to hurt me or you aren’t worthy.
Katy Doggett: They look at us like you have such pretty skin or like most, or a lot of Germans and I’ve asked, they want to just stare because they are just in awe of brown skin. I usually have big curly hair. And so often they’ll say, oh my gosh, your hair and they’ll want to touch it. And not in a negative way or anything like that. They’re just infatuated with it. I never feel unsafe here. I can take the train anywhere and I can get off and stand out in the train station at midnight and not feel ill at ease. I feel completely safe. I walk to in front of the train station in the dark and I’m not scared. They don’t have guns here. So that’s a huge thing that we don’t have to worry about. So I hope that answered the question or questions that you had.
Jason Rebello: No, no. Absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you for sharing your experience. And I’m happy to hear that you’ve had that type of experience on there and it was interesting to hear about your intentionality as to why and I didn’t know that part of the story. So thank you for sharing that.
Oana Amaria: I think is interesting when you were describing your kids and their experiences. It’s very much if you’re familiar with third culture, vendor is fierce over there. This idea of third culture kids and their third culture is military culture.
Katy Doggett: It is.
Oana Amaria: And I can really empathize with that because I feel like a lot of the skills, all of the different ways that I have become successful have been from my context of being a third culture kid. So I know there’s a lot of trade-offs also in maybe relationships are too superficial or people aren’t, it’s like, oh, I’m not going to… We’ve also moved around. And I’m like, am I going to attempt to make friends? I don’t know. So I think there’s a lot to that. I would love to hear from you. What is something that you are really excited about and is in your future that you’re creating for yourself? What brings you joy?
Katy Doggett: Before I answer that, I want to say that yes, my kids have had a lot of trade-offs and just as military family, we have had a lot of trade-offs. I try to glamorize military life because it is awesome. It is. Please understand that in 12 years, so my kids are 12. And it’s about to thunder against, I apologize. 12 years, we have never lived close to our family. So miss birthdays and Christmases and holidays and we don’t just call grandma or aunts, “Hey, can you watch the kids?” There’s no playing with cousins on a weekend or whatever. We’ve always been a thousand plus miles away from our family. And that is really hard, but my kids also say hello and goodbye to their friends so quickly. And I hope that as they get older, that they aren’t mad about that, with us. Because we, as the adults, the parents, we made these conscious decisions to my husband being in the military and then me choosing this job to move them.
Katy Doggett: And they really didn’t get much say in that. And I just hope that when they get older, that they aren’t mad about that and that they look at it like an opportunity. I try my best to remind them that they are living millions of people’s dream lives, living in Europe or traveling or moving around the United States and not actually have to pack your own packing boxes. Huge, big that’s somebody’s dream. So I just hope and I pray every day that when they get older, that they look at it with a positive twist and not like my parents moved me around all the time, because that does happen. And I know that there will be a little bit of it. I just hope that it doesn’t overshadow all the good things that they’ve done. So something that I’m looking forward to. I am totally looking forward to writing my own future.
Katy Doggett: And I say that because for 20 years, I have followed behind my husband and I love him. And I love the service and I love the sacrifice and I love all of that, but I love that now I get to be the captain of my own ship and I chose this job. And I literally moved here on my own, up here by myself right now and it’s huge. It’s also frightening, probably like when you started your own company. Like it’s exciting and it’s frightening and it’s thrilling and it’s shocking. And you’re like, but why did I do this? Am I sure that I’m doing the right thing? And should I have done this? I shouldn’t have done this. Why did I do this? I should have done something easier. I didn’t have to do this. And then I just take this breath and I’m like, it’s okay.
Katy Doggett: It’s going to be okay. You just have to trust the journey. You have to trust the process and it will be okay. It’s very strange to be in the front now. And it’s not because my husband’s no longer the head of the household. He’s still military. He’s still active duty. But now I’m writing this part of my next chapter. And I don’t know how to define it yet. I know what it looks like. I know what it’s feeling like but I don’t know how to define it. I don’t know what it will truly evolve into, but I’m so excited. I’m so excited because people here know me for me. They don’t know me as a spouse. They don’t know me as a mom yet. They don’t know me as anything other than just me. And that’s huge because for so long, I’ve been this person, I’ve been this title.
Katy Doggett: I’ve been this title and now I’m just me. And it’s also frightening because it is just me. I don’t have anything to really fall back on, but I’m really excited for this. And I hope I don’t fail. I hope that as my daughter grows up and she realizes that her mama took this huge step and this huge leap of faith that she herself will see that as an opportunity for her to do the same thing. I have older siblings, they are much older. I don’t know if they will ever be inspired to do anything differently, but I hope that they see their younger sibling living a life that they maybe wish they had, or maybe they do something their friends. So I’m really excited for these changes. On another note, I’m also really excited to get to travel some more by being over here, I’m really thrilled.
Katy Doggett: And looking forward to that opportunity as orders open and whatnot, to just get out and see more cultures. I wasn’t sure that I was a traveler before we moved to Germany, but once we got here the first time, wow. Wow, wow, wow. I think we’ve been to 20 plus countries now and we’re just going to keep going and it’s exciting to see how other people live. I think it’s insane that I can drive literally an hour just to the west and I can be in France and they speak a whole other language and they have all of this other stuff going on. And then I just pop right back over to Germany and I’m back in Germany. And I know that sounds so silly, but it’s so exciting. It’s so thrilling to just be able to see other cultures and see other ways that people live. It really gives the appreciation for what I have, but it also makes me really appreciate what they have. So some of the things I’m excited for.
Oana Amaria: I love that. I love this peace around getting to be you, the the individual again, Katy. Because I think as a mom and as a entrepreneur and as so many other things and with COVID, that has all blurred together. So I really appreciate that. And we often talk about fear as being one of the tools that gets us to growth. And the fact that you said that let’s trust the journey because every day I’m like, why did I do this? And at the same time, we have such incredible impact both individually and collectively with the work that we all do.
Oana Amaria: And so I think that’s just such a powerful thing to really highlight here, because that is not a small thing. And to demonstrate that to your daughter, I think we underestimate, or maybe underappreciate because we’re just so in it every day, the impact that what we get to model for them has on their lives. And I say this because for me, the biggest thing right now is self care and how I’m modeling self care to her because I don’t want her to inherit the tendencies and the behaviors that I’ve created in this blur. So I think that’s really powerful.
Jason Rebello: Katy, thank you again for the opportunity to learn about this lens of inclusion and awareness around female veterans. Well, certainly not something that was top of mind. So I wasn’t shocked by it at all, but it was still something that I had never really reflected on. And the way you told your story, including the parking spot shame that resulted was just, it left me just… It made me realize just how much important this work is that we’re doing.
Jason Rebello: And the more lenses that we can capture of a forgotten stories or voices that typically don’t get to be heard. And that’s I think one of our biggest goals with a podcast like this and even in the work that we’re doing is to amplify those voices as much as we can so thank you for sharing that. And as inclusion champions and practitioners in this work, one of the things we always are curious about is if you had a request or a call to action for people that are doing this work, especially those that are trying to engage veterans and working on issues within even the military. What is your call to action for us? What is your request for us?
Katy Doggett: So that was a hard question to really think about, because I, for so many years, have discounted myself. I push off or shake off things that have been said to me or about me, or not necessarily negative, just like I’d said before, oh, you’re a military? Fluff that off and say, oh yeah, I did my time. Blah, blah, blah. And I laugh it off and basically just downplay it versus what I should or I could say, which is, why are you saying that to me? So what I would hope for people to say, or to feel is if you wouldn’t have said it to a man, you shouldn’t have to say it to a woman. And I say that because I literally work right now in an organization where I am one of two females in my division and there is 10 or 12 men and two females.
Katy Doggett: And that’s just typical. It’s not a big deal, but I hear their conversations. And so I see how they interact with each other and it’s never, they have to validate each other. But I have been asked the same question in this, but are you sure? It’s like, yeah, I’m pretty sure. I was there. So the thing would be is don’t make anybody validate who they are. What they say about themselves should be enough. And if it’s not, the truth will come to light. They really aren’t a straight A student, their grades will reflect that. Or if they didn’t go to Harvard, their transcripts will reflect that, if they really don’t wear a size 10 shoe, their shoes will tell that story. Don’t discount them just because you may not think that they fit the mold of what your minds has made you think that they should be. Actually have a shirt that says, don’t let what you see be changed by what you’ve been told or something like that.
Katy Doggett: It was very powerful because so often we’re told or taught what we’re supposed to think in the world. And so female veterans, we are not always seeing because when people think of military, they think of men in uniform going off to war and doing all of that because I see imagery that’s out there. We’ve changed and the military has changed their posters and their mantras and all of that. And it’s not as bad, but it’s still not as good as it should be. So we just had to change the way our minds think about it and see it in the world and maybe then we won’t have to, as a female and we wouldn’t have to validate that we’ve done and written that same blank check that our male brother counterparts have done and are continuing to do.
Jason Rebello: No, absolutely. Thank you so much. And again, thank you for bringing that voice and we will continue to amplify it. And honestly, I’ll pull for so much of what came out of your story that I think is a really great way to talk about this topic of these expectations or these stereotypes or a bias around different elements. And this is a very interesting clear cut non-traditional way to bring up that topic, but it’s also just very cut and dry, which I think will hit home. So again, thank you for that gift through the courage to share your story.
Katy Doggett: Thank you for having me. I mean, this is awesome. I hope it’s been helpful.
Oana Amaria: Absolutely and thank you for your service.
Katy Doggett: It’s been an honor.