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NEWS | Jan. 12, 2023

First female Kentucky Army National Guard master sergeant honored

By Andy Dickson, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Retired Army Master Sgt. Wilma J. Ross, 81, was laid to rest with military honors at Grove Hill Cemetery in Shelbyville, Ky., on Dec. 3, 2022.

Ross, from Shelbyville, served more than 24 years in the military and was the first female to be promoted to the rank of master sergeant in the Kentucky Army National Guard.

After the color guard folded the national colors, the flag was presented to her daughter, Pauletta Willard, by Army 1st Sgt. Naarah Stallard, the senior enlisted for the 223rd Military Police Company.

“It was a privilege to have been part of Master Sgt. Wilma Ross’s funeral service,” said Stallard. “It gave me a deeper sense of appreciation and respect for this honorable duty as I presented the flag to her daughter.”

Ross enlisted in November 1974 as a clerk typist with the State Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, leaving her family for two weeks to attend basic training in Mississippi. She would later begin working as a full-time technician in personnel management for State Area Command (STARC).

In 1993, Ross was promoted to master sergeant by the Kentucky Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Michael Davidson.

Army Col. Bill Draper, the state support chaplain, presided over the service.

Draper served with Ross when he was an enlisted chaplain’s assistant. Draper said the whole STARC staff was like family and knew Guard members and their families well.

“That’s what makes the Guard so unique,” said Draper. “In those small spaces, you were like family.”

According to Willard, Ross loved to fish, hunt, and quilt. Ross won the grand champion ribbon at the Kentucky State Fair for quilting in 2006.

But she loved her job in the military.

"She gave her heart and her soul to the Guard,” said Willard. “She made me who I am. I am a better person because of her.”

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