Ret. Army MSgt. Linda Berry Reflects On Family, Career
“My mom is my hero; I’ve watched her battle body pains and still care for her family, her home, and her country without visible signs of weakness,” said Army Sgt. Tommie Berry, a mass communication specialist with the 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment currently deployed to Poznan, Poland.
Retired Army Master Sgt. Linda Berry, formerly the noncommissioned officer in charge of operations with the 135th Military Police Company out of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, didn’t set out to follow her father’s footsteps into the Army when she enlisted. Instead, she set out to be all she could be, including a mother, in her twenty-three years of service in the U.S. Army.
Raising her hand in allegiance to the Constitution of the United States in 1984, Linda Berry, without knowing it, put into motion a future that held the possibility of being a high-ranking leader. She started her career as a light-weight vehicle mechanic with the 1st Armored Division stationed in Nuremberg, Germany, from 1984 to 1987.
However, her experience as a mechanic was short-lived once the Army paid recognition to her basketball skills.
“I played basketball in Germany; I was supposed to be a mechanic, but mostly I was an athlete,” she said. “I saw the MPs coming to our unit; they were so sharp. Their uniforms were so clean. I knew that I wanted to be in the Military Police.”
Thoroughly impressed with the Military Police Corps' professionalism, she knew immediately that she would have to become a Military Police member if she were to have a career in the Army. In order to fulfill this dream, she knew she had to leave active duty and return to the states.
Linda reclassified and served in the U.S. Army Reserve Military Police Corps from 1987 to 1990. During that time, her family grew.
She became a mother to a daughter, Linda II, and two sons, Tommie and Garey II.
Linda Berry transitioned into the Ohio Army National Guard in 1990, becoming a member of the 135th Military Police Company. During her time with the 135th, she deployed to Iraq twice, Kosovo, and Louisiana to support Hurricane Katrina relief.
Sgt. Megan Shoff, a counterintelligence special agent with the 752nd Military Intelligence Battalion out of Augusta, Ga., served with Master Sgt. Berry at Contingency Operating Post Carver, southeast of Salman Pak, Iraq, 2008.
“She is motivating and perceptive,” Shoff said. “She uses her experience to help and train other Soldiers while never forgetting they are people too. She always paid attention to the wellbeing of her subordinates and actually cared about helping and did so.”
Between the years 1990-2010, Berry balanced to her best ability being a mother and leading Soldiers on the battlefield. However, being deployed overseas for nine to twelve months is not easy to explain to children.
“Obviously, I have to worry about my family back at home,” Linda Berry said. “I was getting reports from church about Tommie, making sure he was staying in line. My daughter was working, and she had to get everybody to school activities. So, I would get good reports from home. I think I was proud that even if I'm not home, their behavior was excellent.”
Linda emphasized that when she heard these reports of good behavior, she was proud. This reassured her and enabled her to focus on the mission while being away from home and her children.
“Being a child of Master Sgt. Berry (retired) meant I had to grow up quicker than my peers,” Tommie said. “Ever since I was young in the early ’90s, she has been activated for wars and natural disasters and other events that took her away from home. It was tough at times, but eventually, her leaving got easier. My siblings and I realized that her being away was not about us and that we needed to make sure we stayed on our best behavior so she wouldn’t get any bad reports.”
In 2007, 18-year-old Tommie Berry joined the Ohio National Guard, following the footsteps of both his grandfather and his mother.
“I was also proud that when Tommie did join the Army, he was 18-years old, and it was on his birthday,” Linda Berry said.
She recently attended Tommie’s call to duty ceremony in Columbus, Ohio, before he deployed to Europe to support Operation Atlantic Resolve.
“My mother’s experiences and stories intrigued me to explore the option of the military, and 14 years later, I know it was the right choice,” Tommie Berry said.
Linda Berry, to this day, makes an effort not to forget her fellow veterans still serving and retired. She actively volunteers at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“That's my family, and we make sure that we say things on certain holidays, especially Memorial Day and especially on Veterans Day,” she said. “We always email to support each other.”
Women’s Veterans Day is observed on June 12, celebrating the integration of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on June 12, 1948. As the U.S. Army both thrives through the service of dedicated families, it also challenges those who may not view themselves as future service members. When asked what her advice was to women thinking of joining the military, Berry proudly responded.
“So I would say to women service members ‘be all you can be,’” Linda said. “I don't care what the MOS is. If you want to fly, you fly. That's why I was an MP because they were sharp giving orders. To all the women, I would like to say, keep up the good work! Thank you for your service!”