“I Can’t Give Up”: Breaking Barriers And Standing Up For Yourself

Wendy (Snell) Yeldell


Wendy (Snell) Yeldell grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the youngest of five siblings. Her father owned several laundromats and was an entrepreneur in other ways as well. Wendy wanted to go to college and get away from Orangeburg, so she went to the University of South Carolina in Columbia. After her second year, a friend told her she could earn extra money serving in the National Guard. She enlisted, and then joined ROTC after Basic Training. At one point, her PMS (Professor of Military Science) told her she could drop out, but she persevered and had him administer the Oath of Office to her. She was the first African-American female to commission through the University of South Carolina ROTC program. Throughout her career, she had to deal with prejudices both as an African-American and as a woman, but she continually stood up for herself and proved herself through hard work and dedication, eventually serving as a Brigade Commander and retiring as a Colonel. In this interview she talks about her childhood, her family, and her experiences in ROTC at the University of South Carolina. She describes several incidents throughout her career that highlight some of the issues she faced, and how she navigated certain problems. Finally, she reflects on her son attending West Point, and how being a mother and an Officer shapes her perspective.


conflicts Persian Gulf War
topics African American Military Experience Race in the Military Courage Ethics Honor Women in Service
interviewer Rick Black
date 05 August 2015


name Wendy (Snell) Yeldell
institution University of South Carolina
graduation year 1982
service Medical Service Corps
unit 3rd Medic Training Brigade
specialty First African American Female ROTC Commission from University of South Carolina
service dates 1982 2011