Kent County Chapter 850, Vietnam Veterans of America, will feature a local veteran as its keynote speaker at 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park on South Little Creek Road in Dover.
Retired Lt. Col. Marybel H. ‘Mary’ Johnson retired from the U.S. Army in 2007 after 21 years of service and transitioned into the business world the following year as owner/operator of the Chick-fil-A at Dover Mall. In 2011, she built her current store in front of Lowe’s in North Dover.
Johnson graduated with honors from Hudson High School, in Hudson, Ohio. She earned varsity letters in basketball, volleyball and track and received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, where she played basketball, volleyball, team handball and lacrosse.
As a cadet, she earned parachutist wings after graduating from Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. She served as the first woman in the USMA Color Guard and was honored to carry the American flag.
She earned her commission as a second lieutenant in the aviation branch of the Army upon graduation in 1986 and graduated from Rotary Wing Flight School in 1987 and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
She served as an airborne paratrooper in support of the 82nd Airborne Division and as an Army aviator qualified in rotary and fixed wing aircraft. Throughout her career, she served in various positions, including battalion commander during one of her two tours of duty in Iraq. Her service awards include two Bronze Star medals.
Johnson’s Chick-fil-A store employs more than 65 team members, including veterans, military dependents and college and high school students. She is a past vice chair of the board of USO-Delaware. She lives in Dover and has three children, Matthew, Alex and Claire.