U.S. Army vet who thrives on giving back is Co-Grand Marshal of America’s Parade

NEW YORK — When Col. Stephanie Dawson visits the 9/11 Memorial, she’s immediately drawn to the North Reflecting Pool. It’s where the names of her colleagues at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who were killed that day,

are inscribed into the bronze panels. The now Chief Operating Officer of the Port Authority worked closely with World Trade Center security director Douglas Karpiloff.

“It’s particularly heartbreaking still to think about that day. But I feel grateful for all the work people like Doug did to increase the sense of security,” said Col. Dawson.

Had Col. Dawson not stopped to vote that morning, she would have been in her office on the 71st floor of the North Tower when the first plane hit.

“I don’t know what my purpose is, but I do know it’s in giving back,” she said.

And giving back is what Col. Stephanie Dawson is all about. She joined the U.S. Army after college in 1979. In 2008, she became the first woman to serve as a brigade commander in the New York Army National Guard.

She commanded the 369th Sustainment Brigade, long known as the Harlem Hellfighters.

“Proud of that unit because they were known for their motivation, their determination, their resilience, and those are watchwords for today,” Col. Dawson said.

She was with the unit when it was mobilized on September 11th to help with the rescue and recovery effort. She later served in Kuwait and Iraq as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

All that earned her another honor. She was asked to be one of three Grand Marshals of America’s Parade on Veterans Day, a day she will reflect on what she calls a noble profession.

“It’s what we call selfless service. They give that service. And actually there’s no amount of reward or award that can be given to people that’s commensurate with the sacrifice that’s made. And so, there’s no nobler calling in my mind.”