West Point grad still serves in new role
Posted November 11, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — Teesa McKinley was one of the trailblazers who were among the first women admitted to the U.S. Military Academy, but even after her Army career ended, she continues to serve others.
McKinley, who left the Army as a captain, is now director of catering at Café Caturra in Raleigh's Cameron Village shopping center. Her ever-present smile, which West Point officers tried unsuccessfully to wipe away, is a trademark.
"Smirk off, no smile," she said, recalling the orders barked by her superiors. "It gets to a point where they make a joke of it, and you have to (pretend to literally) wipe the smile off your face, throw it down on the floor and stomp on it, which, of course, makes you laugh even more."
A member of the second class of women ever admitted to the nation's oldest military academy, she played lacrosse and soccer at West Point before graduating in 1981. She later was a member of a field artillery unit.
McKinley's family has deep roots in the military. Her father served in Korea, where he was wounded, and she met her husband while he was flying Army helicopters in Germany.
Her older son recently spent a year in Iraq, and her daughter will soon serve in Afghanistan. Both are West Point graduates, as were her brother and brother-in-law, and her younger son is a sophomore at the academy.
She said she still uses the lessons she learned at West Point and during her military service – teamwork, looking out for each other and discipline – every day behind the counter.
"The customers are the No. 1 priority, but we want to make sure that we're helping each other so that the customer gets the very best service," she said. "Teamwork is huge here at Café Caturra."
McKinley said she believes that Veterans Day is for everyone who has ever served and for the families who are left behind.
"They're in civilian clothes, but they've given up just as much as our soldiers have," she said. "Our soldiers are away from them for months or a year or two or three or four tours. So, I think it's just as important to remember the veterans' families as well as the veterans themselves."