Sue Glisan is a volunteer with Interfaith Ministries’ Christmas Clearing House. The program helps provide a Christmas for local low-income families. As a young adult, Glisan worked in banking before joining the Army and becoming one of the first female helicopter pilots.
Are you originally from the Anniston area? No, I was born and raised in Montana. I lived about 50 miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It was a gorgeous place, but it was too cold! I came here in 1980. I was an Army helicopter pilot, and I have been all over the country. I went to Jacksonville State University, and my degree is in accounting. I worked at the incinerator for a while. Then I started doing contract consulting all over the country.
Why did you want to go into the Army? I wanted to fly helicopters, and the Army was the only branch I could go in without a four-year degree, which I did not have at the time.
Did you join the Army right after high school? No, I worked in banking for a little bit, then I went into the Army when I was about 21 years old.
What did your family think of you joining the Army? My folks were in Arizona at the time and knew nothing. I had passed all the tests to go into the Army, and all that was left was a basic training date. I called my dad and told him that I was going into the Army, and he said, “By George, that is exactly what you need: some discipline!” Then I told him that I was going to fly helicopters. I had just totaled a car, and he said, “Sue, you cannot even drive a car!” I hung up on my dad. I called back about 15 minutes later, and he was still laughing.
Tell us about being an Army helicopter pilot. I was one of the first female helicopter pilots. My first assignment was Fort Bragg, N.C., then Seoul, South Korea, then I got out. I was in for five years, then I had had enough.
Was it difficult being one of the first female helicopter pilots? Yes, it was tough.
Was it tough because being an Army helicopter pilot is tough, or because you are a woman? It was tough because of both of those things. The guys did not want me there in the first place. They thought it was “their domain” and that I was “breaking into a man’s world.” Some of my TAC officers tried to wash me out, but I survived. I did it. It was not easy. Fort Bragg, my first assignment, was not easy. That is where the 82nd Airborne and the XVIII Airborne Corps are.
Tell us about your volunteer work with Christmas Clearing House. This is my first year being involved, and I am the chairperson of the publicity committee. There are several committees with different responsibilities, and the publicity committee contacts local churches and elementary schools to distribute info packets and yard signs and solicits donations.
What is Christmas Clearing House? Christmas Clearing House is a seasonal outreach ministry of Interfaith Ministries in cooperation with The Salvation Army. Donations from local churches and the community fund our annual outreach, which is led by a team of volunteers. We try to help provide a decent Christmas for low-income families. We depend on the support and generosity of the community and all area churches, regardless of denomination, to allow this program to help those among us that need support. Churches are bombarded especially hard this time of year for giving, and we understand that, but this program may mean a meal and a toy that otherwise a family may not receive.
How do the families receive assistance? There is an application process in early fall, then if they meet the criteria, they receive a gift certificate that can be spent on clothing, food and toys.
How can the community donate to Christmas Clearing House? Donations are accepted in person, through the mail, and online. If you write a check, please make them out to: Interfaith Ministries, Box 1444, Anniston, AL 36202, and write “Christmas Clearing House” on the memo line. You can also donate online at the Interfaith Ministries website; select “Christmas Clearing House” as the designated outreach you want to support. Christmas Clearing House is also on Facebook.
Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at email@example.com.