National Guard General Returns To Alma Mater

National Guard General Returns To Alma Mater
Snow Hill High alumna Janeen Birckhead, a general with the Maryland Army National Guard, returned to her school aboard a Blackhawk helicopter last Friday. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

SNOW HILL – Maryland Army National Guard General Janeen Birckhead visited her alma mater last week to share insight on leadership with local teenagers.

Eyes were on the sky Friday as a Blackhawk helicopter carrying Birckhead and seven other National Guard members landed on the baseball field behind Snow Hill High School. Birckhead, who is a graduate of the school, visited to talk to students about leadership and the qualities associated with it.

“You’re at a critical point in your career,” she said. “I want you to start thinking about the future.”

Kimberly Purvis, principal of Snow Hill High School, said Birckhead’s visit was a chance for the school community to celebrate one of its former grads as well as an opportunity for students to hear from someone who’d been successful in achieving their goals.

“She’s here to talk about leadership and making good choices,” Purvis said.

Birckhead, whose children are students at Snow Hill High, was greeted by friends and family members as well as school representatives as she exited the helicopter Friday. She visited several classrooms to address students regarding the importance of qualities like respect, honor, integrity and personal courage. Respect, she pointed out, was being impacted by the growing use of social media.

“It hurts my heart,” she said. “You’re limiting your options because of what you do on social media. When you don’t have respect for yourself, you know what? Everybody else knows you don’t have respect for yourself and they don’t respect you.”

Birckhead, who described being a female general as being “the 1% of the 1%,” also encouraged students to provide selfless service. She described the way she’d recently helped an elderly traveler during a cross-country flight.

“It’s not always about the dollar,” Birckhead said. “Your reward may be that someday you’re paid back when someone does something good for your kid, or your mother.”

She also talked about honor and personal courage, reminding students that while those were internal qualities they nonetheless played into leadership.

She urged students to be deliberate and to begin planning for their futures.

“Don’t let those opportunities pass you by,” she said. “Opportunity only has a window. Once that window’s closed on the opportunity it is gone.”

Birckhead said she was happy to return to her hometown and offer support to local kids.

“I think it’s so good to come back to where you’re from when you can have an impact,” she said. “If I can’t help you get it maybe I know someone who can help you get it. I’m all about that. Remember selfless service? It’s not about me it’s about bettering the community.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.