From her great-grandfather and grandfathers to her spouse, cousins, aunts and uncles, Kimberly Layne Golson has a veteran-filled family tree.
As a retired senior chief cryptologic technician with the U.S. Navy, Golson has carried on that tradition. Now living with her husband, L.V. Golson Jr., in the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, the mother of two reflects on a career that instilled in her the values of hard work, compassion, sacrifice and service.
“Joining the Navy,” Golson says, “was one of the best decisions of my life.”
Although she grew up mostly in the South, calling Florence, Ala., and Greensboro, N.C., home, Golson moved around frequently as a child. Traveling always has seemed natural to her, and she carried a lot of responsibility from a young age.
“My job was to take care of the younger kids,” Golson recalls. “It made me grow up fast, and responsibility is still a major part of my life.”
At school, she was expected to take home economics, but she preferred to take courses in wood shop and auto mechanics. Her parents asked why she couldn’t and were told it was because she was a girl.
“If you knew my mom, you’d see her spin up,” Golson says. “She was way before her time in women’s rights.”
“My mother raised me to believe that I could be anyone that I wanted to be and do anything that I wanted to do; I just had to have a goal and work hard towards that goal,” she says. “I learned from her and saw firsthand that she really believed it.”
Ultimately, her parents convinced the school to grant her request.
“It was hard at first, but the guys quickly learned that it wasn’t a ‘gimme’ class for me; I worked hard and earned my grade,” Golson says. “I had a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda that ran like a top!
“I didn’t much like the grease under my fingernails, but I loved that the guys would ask me to get a part that their big hands couldn’t reach. As a result, I was able to succeed in my chosen Navy job.”
Upon graduating, she picked the Navy because the recruiter offered a better deal than the Air Force. When Golson put her name to the enlistment papers, she was signing on to work as a data processing technician.
“When I got to boot camp, they told me that they could offer me a really great job in cryptology copying Morse code,” she recalls. “After hearing about the job, I said ‘sure.’ It was a good decision!”
BELIEVING AND ACHIEVING
Golson met her husband in Okinawa, her favorite duty station, and from there, they went to the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland — followed by stints in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Homestead, Florida, where she lost a home to Hurricane Andrew.
Golson recalls that everything about her job changed when she was promoted to chief petty officer — a major career milestone. While she gained more leeway to make decisions, she also took on more responsibility.
“The hardest thing for me to deal with as a new chief was counseling sailors who chose not to follow the rules,” Golson says. “I am a rule-follower and never really understood why other people didn’t do the same.”
Her high standards and performance led to Golson being honored twice as Command Sailor of the Year. She especially enjoyed helping the junior sailors with families and initiating programs for them.
“Starting an Angel tree for Christmas gifts for the children and putting together a cookbook with recipes from active duty and their spouses for a fundraiser were two of my favorite experiences,” she says. “As I gained in rank, putting together a training for the junior sailors to help them study was fun and fulfilling — and it didn’t hurt that it helped me to study.”
In 1997, Golson retired in Pensacola, Florida, after 20 years of service. Throughout her military tenure, she always tried to help others and strived to reach her own potential.
GIRL IN A GUY’S WORLD
Being a female military member was a unique experience in large and small ways, according to Golson. For instance, a lot of the guys expected women to not carry their weight, she says, so females had to earn the respect of their male coworkers by going above and beyond. Men, on the other hand, could be sent on dangerous assignments from which women were spared.
“Early in my career, I wanted to go on a ship or submarine, but women in my job were not allowed,” she recalls. “After I had children, I was very glad for that limitation. The men did not have that choice.”
Emotionally, Golson found it hard to leave her children when she had to travel.
“Luckily,” she says, “I had trustworthy friends or family nearby to help during these times.”
Since retiring, Golson has held several jobs, including serving as a book editor for an author of Western historical fiction and providing bookkeeping and invoicing services. She’s also designed and maintained databases and instructed clients on using them, and she still trains users on Microsoft Office products. For more than a decade, she’s been a graduate coordinator assistant for the computer science department at the University of West Florida.
In her last Navy job, Golson wrote rate training manuals, rating examinations and typing performance tests — which she says helped when she decided to write her own children’s book: “The Silent Fart: Fun on the Farm.” The story, available on Amazon, follows Jim, Joe, and Barry as they explore a farm after school lets out for the summer.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Golson moved into the Armed Services Retirement Home late last year, where one of her favorite amenities is the sewing room. Daily, she gets to speak to other veterans who served in World War II — whose stories give her a deep appreciation for their sacrifices.
As the nation prepares to observe Veterans Day on Nov. 11, Golson gives thanks for her fellow men and women in uniform and for everything she learned and gained through her own service.
“I had it all — a job that I loved, travel and new experiences that I enjoyed, people in my life that made a huge difference, my family, my friends and the chance to succeed and finally retire,” she says. “In retirement, I have the best of both worlds.”