Jess Clackum is Director of Social Media and Veterans Liaison for FlyGirls the Series. Jess served in the U.S. Coast Guard and is a writer with a background in History & Mass Communications and is a crucial member of the Production team.
"Joining the Coast Guard in the 1980s was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I traveled and met people from all different walks of life. I gained experience in search and rescue, firefighting, seamanship, tactical law enforcement and culinary arts. Being out on the water gave me a feeling of freedom and independence that I had never known. Serving my country made me proud to be a part of something bigger, something worthwhile. I gained confidence and learned the true value of working as part of a team, for the greater good.
When I joined, women were not considered equal to their male counterparts. At times, we faced roadblocks to the same opportunities and consideration. We persevered in spite of discrimination and sexual harassment by going above and beyond, embracing the opportunity to serve our country, with hopes of advancement as we asserted our worth.
A number of women I served with wanted to enter more traditional male jobs in the service but were discouraged from those paths. The headstrong, however, ignored the advice of supervisors and Commanding Officers and pursued their goals anyway, placing their names on lists for schools or participating in on-the-job training. For those who stayed with it, their struggles against the system were ultimately rewarded.
Women are more empowered now than they have been in any other time in history. Never-before-had opportunities to make our mark in the world comes abound but we didn’t get here on our own. We had lots of help from the generations of women before us and we owe them a debt of gratitude. Their struggles and sacrifices paved the way for us to be where we are today.
That’s why the Fly Girls project is near and dear to my heart.
Over the years, I’ve studied World War II history. I’ve read books and I've taken the time to talk to people who served during the war---including my grandfather who was a mine planter (his brother Arthur, an infantryman died in the Pacific Theater), my grandmother May and her sister Jeanine, both of whom were Rosie the Riveters, building bombs and aircraft for the war effort, PFC Benno Levi, who served with my great Uncle Arthur and who shared his war experiences with me, and countless others who served bravely and selflessly for the cause. The conversations I've had bring home to me that every American — men and women, of all ages — contributed to the war effort, and that the role that women played in winning the war is often overlooked.
Over seventy years ago, the Women Airforce Service Pilots refused to stand in the shadows and let their destinies be chosen for them. They each had a dream and they pursued it. They served with honor and distinction and deserve better than to be forgotten.
It’s time to honor them and their sacrifices and accomplishments, we who’ve benefited from such trailblazers.
That is exactly what our miniseries will do!"