How this soldier went from singing on a cruise line to following in her father’s footsteps

How this soldier went from singing on a cruise line to following in her father’s footsteps


Making the decision to join the military is never an easy one. But it can be even more difficult when you don’t have the support of your family.

First Lt. Janeen Phelps was 17 when she first expressed her desire to join the Army after a friend of hers that she played soccer with enlisted. Her father, John Phelps, said no.

He had served in the military during the Vietnam War-era, responding stateside to civil unrest. He knew that what the Army promises isn’t always what they deliver.

“There is a layer of people above you, and they don’t always give you the correct information,” John Phelps told Army Times during a call with him and his daughter.

The desire to serve never left Janeen Phelps, though.

She followed her passion for music and sang for a time on the Las Vegas strip, Janeen Phelps recalled for a recent Army recruiting advertisement. After a performance at the Apollo Theater in New York City, she was invited to sing for a cruise line for five years, visiting dozens of countries.

But on those voyages, she realized she wanted to be a part of something that could help fix the issues she saw in the world.

“Seeing the political unrest, particularly with the Arab Spring, and knowing that I could be an asset in anyway,” was a big draw, Janeen Phelps said.

At the age of 28, she was able to get her parents support for her new career path. Her time on the cruise ship had shown her enough for her father to believe she knew what she was getting herself into.

“Knowing she’d seen what was happening in the world, and watching her maneuver, she can handle it a lot better at that age than at 17, 18,” John Phelps said. “We’re behind her.”

Janeen Phelps eventually became a public affairs officer in the Army Reserve. Her story was recently spotlighted among four others in a new Army recruiting series: “The Calling.”

Army 2nd Lt. Seth Shields, left, graduated from Ranger School Thursday, exactly 35 years after his father, Chaplain (Maj.) Charlie Shields, did the same on Nov. 12, 1985. (Courtesy of Chaplain (Maj.) Charlie Shields)

She said her story is unique, but it is not the only unique story out there.

“It’s proof that you don’t have to be born a warrior to become a warrior,” she said.

It’s not easy for parents to let go of their kids, especially when they want to join the military. But John Phelps says parents should give advice, then sit back and see what happens.

He emphasized that a lot of parents think of combat roles when their kids say they want to join the military, but there are non-combat support roles in all branches, as well.

“I’m closer to 40 now than I am to 20, but my dad is still my dad, and he has his concerns,” Lt. Phelps said. “What we see on television is not what the Army is in its entirety.”





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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.