Dr. Angela Manos has been in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. Now, she has the ability to share these life-changing experiences with online criminal justice students at Saint Leo University.

Three Decades of Army Life

The 64-year-old native of Houston grew up in Georgia and now lives in Ormond Beach, Fla. Her childhood homes varied with her dad being in the Navy. She also has two brothers who were in the Army and Marines. So, naturally, it was almost meant to be that Manos would pursue a career serving her country.

"I joined the Army in 1979, which was the first year they officially started letting women in the Army as enlisted soldiers," she recalls. "They'd had the Women's Army Corps before this, but they changed the rules to let women into the regular Army."

Two years after her enlistment, she was commissioned through the Officers' Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Ga. in 1981. Prior to the Army, she worked as a deputy sheriff in the Atlanta area.

Admittedly, she felt uncomfortable at times being the only female in her unit, and she recalls that some of the men weren't thrilled to be grouped with a female. She served as an Army police officer and eventually moved up the ranks to become a colonel.

Throughout her career in the armed forces, Manos was deployed all over the world, including stints in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia, Honduras, Haiti, Macedonia and Panama. From May 2007 through the end of 2008, her last deployment was an 18-month tour of duty in Kabul where she worked as the senior mentor to Afghanistan's Minister of Interior.

"We were responsible for building a national police force by teaching the Afghans how to become police officers," she explains. "A problem we faced is that we were never always sure if we were working with an Afghan citizen or a member of the Taliban. We successfully trained thousands of officers. We got them uniforms and weapons, and we got them posted in different areas."

While she and her team certainly made big strides, she admits that she was always on high alert during this stressful tour of duty.

"It was not a good scene in many places over there. Almost every day, we'd see a shooting or bombing. We also got ambushed a lot. One day, there was a bus full of orphan kids that was blown up. It was so incredible that within 30 minutes of an attack, there was no evidence left behind. It was literally like nothing had happened. We constantly saw things most people would never think about ever having to deal with."

This experience left her with a back injury, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"I was involved in a rocket-propelled grenade attack," she says.

Manos adds that if an Afghan suffered an injury and went to a local hospital, they'd be sent to a drug store to purchase their own bandages.

Her work primarily involved assimilating with the locals.

"I actually spent most of my days with the Afghan people and was very seldom with my fellow military members," she recounts. "The people really did treat me well. I had my helmet and gear on most of the time, so there were instances where people couldn't tell that I was a female."

Her stateside post stations dotted the U.S. map, including Ft. Hood in Texas, Ft. Drum in New York, Ft. McClellan in Alabama, Ft. McPherson in Georgia, Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas and Ft. Polk in Louisiana. It was at Fort McPherson and nearby Fort Gillem where she was the first female to be an installation commander, which was comparable to the size of a brigade. She also spent a few years at the Pentagon where she worked for Gordon Sullivan, the chief of staff for the Army at the time.

Walking Away with Important Life Lessons

In her words, life in the Army was a tremendous learning experience in so many different ways.

"I really learned a lot about people and why they do the things they do. I also learned so much about tacticle thinking and how to operate within a system. One of the biggest things I gained was an appreciation for life and how good we have it in the U.S. compared to other places in the world."

It also toughened her up quickly.

"One day, a soldier is there. The next day, they're gone. Sure, we'd honor the fallen, but there was no real closure. There were also many things I saw that I'll never get out of my head. But if you show your emotions or that you're afraid, the others around you will pick up on your reactions, especially the younger ones. I had to set an example for them."

The Meaning of a Purple Heart

To Manos, a Purple Heart has a unique significance that may differ from how others view this military decoration awarded to those who are wounded or killed while serving.

"It means more to others than it does to me," she says. "I was proud to show I served my country, but I came out easy compared to what others have suffered. I really don't like to brag about having a Purple Heart, and others seem to make it into more than what I think it represents."

She also earned a combat action badge, along with a number of other honors.

Giving Back through Education at Saint Leo

For nearly a decade, Manos has taught courses in Saint Leo University's Center for Online Learning. She is currently a full-time assistant professor of criminal justice.

She has taught a wide variety of courses, including those titled Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice Administration, Psychological Aspects of Criminal Incidence, Correctional Systems and Future Studies in Criminal Justice.

"Because of my injuries and surgeries I've had, online teaching is a great option for me," she says. "The other faculty in my program have been extremely supportive while I've been in and out of the hospital. They've always been on my side, and it has made for a wonderful experience."

She thoroughly enjoys connecting with the students she educates.

"The students are great. Many are current or former military, and I can relate to them and help them through hard times. Some of them e-mail me privately or call my cell phone with questions. It's very rewarding and fulfilling work."

From her standpoint, students who do well in distance learning often put more time into their studies.

"I would say online students tend to be more dedicated because of the self-discipline you need when you aren't taking classes in a traditional classroom."

A Furry Friend for Support

Manos has one son, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. In addition to her loving family, she always has a furry companion at her side due to the mental and physical impact of her time in the military. Her service dog is named Ewok, an Affenpinscher.

"Naming her Ewok was my way of saying that I need help dealing with the death and destruction I had lived through for 18 months in Afghanistan and still staying in contact with our world," she confides. "Much like the theme of Star Wars. It does not matter where you are at the time or what is going on around you. There are things that you must hold on to if you want to survive."

Last But Not Least…Words of Wisdom

She shares some encouraging words of wisdom for anyone wanting to succeed while making a difference.

"You must strive to commit to leaving the world a better place then you found it through whatever means you can find as a means to serve all of those around you, even those that refuse to respect you."

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Angela Manos and is used with permission.