Chief Warrant Officer 3
Born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Laura didn't always know she wanted to be a pilot. Initially, she found joy in journalism, and followed this career path to Colorado. While working as a photojournalist, she went on assignment with a pilot who briefly handed her the controls-and in that moment, a new passion was born.
Shortly thereafter, Laura joined the U.S. Army to pursue her dream of flight. She graduated from the U.S. Army Rotary Wing Flight School and became one of the Army's first female aviators: paving the way for other women to take to the skies. Laura first served as a helicopter mechanic at Fort Rucker and Fort Knox on her way to becoming a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. She flew at home and abroad over the course of her ten year career, including tours in Germany and Saudi Arabia, and served in the Desert Storm conflict.
But Laura's passions weren't restricted to the skies; they also extended to the land and the sea. After retiring, she dedicated more of her time to SCUBA diving and horseback riding: both of which provide therapeutic benefits, reduce stress, and improve physical and mental health. But after a horseback riding accident in 2009, she became a paraplegic and worried she'd have to say goodbye to both of these activities forever.
It wasn't until 2018 that Laura met fellow veterans Kari-Ann Melendez and Dale Davis, who were working to provide adaptive SCUBA diving experiences for people with disabilities. This grew into the Adapt-Able Foundation, which Laura helped to establish. The foundation strives to show veterans the peaceful freedom SCUBA diving can provide. Through their dives, veterans can find a sense of independence in underwater exploration, find mental healing in the weightless underwater world, and form a community based on trust. "It's easy to feel isolated and alone, but by reaching out ... that's how you become mentally strong," Laura says.
Whether she was in the sky or under the sea, Laura has always kept her eye on the horizon, looking out not only for her own future, but for the future of others. Between leading the way for women to take flight in the U.S. Army and co-founding an adaptive SCUBA diving organization, Laura's mission has always been the same: breaking down barriers to discover freedom-and bringing others along with her.
To learn more about how the Adapt-Able Foundation is making SCUBA diving an inclusive experience, visit https://adapt-ablefoundation.org.
Prev Hero Next hero
Previous American-Made Heroes
Every American-Made Hero has a courageous story to tell. Meet our past heroes.View Past Heroes