ANDERSON, S.C. (WSPA) – In 1917, the first woman was allowed to enlist in the military. It wasn’t until the next World War that women became a permanent part of military services.

Today, women represent less than 20 percent of our armed forces. One of those is an Anderson native who has made it her mission to support other women looking to serve.

It’s hard to do a woman like Major Roshonda Thomas justice. Clearly, she’s tough. When she’s not running her ax throwing business in Anderson, she’s carrying an M16. Thomas has served in the Army and the Army Reserve for 14 years.

“If you have the drive and want to serve and you actually want to learn something and be a better person, I think the military does that for you,” she said.

Thomas got the bug to serve from her father, Master Sergeant Stanely Rogers. Soon after her first deployment to Iraq in 2009, she joined a grassroots mentor group for women in the military and as the founder will attest, Thomas ran with it.

“It wasn’t just ‘hey, I’m going to take some of this advice. I’m going to go one step further and I’m going to share it with everybody.’ And so she started recording these conversations with people that she met and was inspired by and sharing those lessons learned,” Lt. Colonel Heather McAteer said.

Soon, Thomas had created a blog, which included audio from interviews with 17 female officers in the military. The interviews included lessons that taught her how to be a leader as well as wisdom she has shared with other women.

“I think that’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned in the past 14 years. You’ve got to be approachable because if you’re not then you’re going to miss something,” Thomas said.

But with any military parent, missing something is part of the sacrifice, especially for a mother of three.

“Second deployment, my son was 4, my middle daughter was 6 and my oldest was 8. So yeah, you know, I left, and I was calling and trying to talk to them as much as possible. But I really took the opportunity… I’m like I’m away for this specific time for a specific reason, what can I learn about myself,” Thomas said.

She said she can see past the time apart, and she grateful for a supportive husband. She said she is also mindful of the example she set for her family.

“I want them to see that I sacrificed for them because it really is about them. At the end of the day, I think about my kids. I think about what they’re going to be and who they’re going to be, and I really just want to leave them a legacy,” she said.

And even as she rose from lieutenant to captain to major, that legacy extended to her work at home. She is not just a businesswoman, but now the creator of a not-for-profit called Destress The Community.

Still, Thomas, now in the Reserves, says she will never give up on her first passion.

“I mean the reality is it’s tough, but it’s worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve had multiple women come to me and say look this is my life story. And for me I’m like, ‘Don’t get out. Do what you’ve got to do, take care of your family, find that network of people who support you and finish, finish well.'”

Thomas, who is now pregnant with her fourth child, plans to continue her service for another six years until retirement. We thank her for her service.