USAREUR honors 'phenomenal' woman
March 28, 2011
- "I've found that even at the lowest possible level a person can sink to, there is within those people a chance for them."
- "you only have one life. Don't waste it. If you want to do something, go do it, because you may never get another chance."
- "To me women's history month is recognition of the value of women."
HOHENFELS, Germany -- U.S. Army Europe selected 13 women to represent the type of women making history today in the Army Family and to be the first recipients of the USAREUR Phenomenal Woman Scroll of Impact.
Priscilla Fleischer, Family Advocacy Program Manager, was nominated for both her professional contributions in the many programs she has implemented, and also for her volunteer activities in numerous community events.
"The fact that people view me as someone valuable to the community is extremely gratifying," Fleischer said. "All of us want to feel that we\'re making a difference, that we're contributing something to our community. So to be recognized in that way is obviously a big compliment for me."
Fleischer knows first-hand how hard women have fought for equal status in society.
"To me women's history month is recognition of the value of women, which has not always been true even within my lifetime," Fleischer said.
"I'm a woman who grew up in the 50's," said Fleischer, saying she was taught that her role as a women was to stay home with the children and have a hot meal prepared when her husband came home in the evenings. "But I'm also a child of the 60's, which means I rebelled and became the world's wildest hippie!"
Subjected to many of the abuses common to women of the time, Fleischer gravitated towards social work in an effort to help change some of the inequalities prevalent in society. She received her master's degree in social work from the University of Illinois and earned her doctorate from the California Institute of Clinical Social Work.
"What I wanted to do is reach out to anybody who needs my help," said Fleischer, and she has pursued that goal in some of the worst slums of America.
"I've found that even at the lowest possible level a person can sink to, there is within those people a chance for them, if somebody cared about them enough," Fleischer said. "Anyone can make their life better if someone is there to help you and support you."
Fleischer is always ready to offer that support. She started at Hohenfels as the New Parents Support Program Home Visitor, counseling parents on parenting skills, child nutrition, and stress management. Shortly afterward, she and her partner started the Total Mom program.
"I think we're the only post in the army that I'm aware of that does this program," Fleischer said. Based on the book "The Total Mom Makeover" by Hannah Keeley, the 10-week program recognizes that a woman is more than a mother, and helps them integrate all the facets of their lives into one total person.
"It's really about building self esteem in young women, and helping them remember that they have goals, they have a life," said Fleischer. "We try to remind them that, yes you have a very hard job being the wife of a soldier, but at the same time you have opportunities, and if we can build support for them and offer them opportunities, there's a way to get through this life as a military spouse in a good way. We want to push them and encourage them to remember who they are as people."
Other programs Fleischer implemented include anger management, couples communication, stress management, and the safe child program.
"The mission of the family advocacy program is the prevention of spouse and child abuse," she said. "All the programs I run are geared toward that."
Even after hours, Fleischer never stops reaching out. Besides being an active member of the German/American Kontact club, Fleischer finds time to help during the Volksfest, Kinderfest, and Make a Difference Day, as well as off post events like the Kriskindle Market in Velburg and the clearing of the Polish Cemetery. She was also a driving force in the execution of the Hohenfels 2010 Angel Tree program which provided gifts to 179 children.
"My husband would say I'm the person who is always trying to stick nine pounds into an eight pound bag," she said.
"I have a hard time saying 'no'," Fleisher admitted, "but, really I'm interested in everything. My father told me you only have one life. Don't waste it. If you want to do something, go do it, because you may never get another chance."
Fleischer says the most rewarding part of her job is working with Soldiers, especially in the group settings like anger management. She said that though their first impression of her might be that of a "sweet little old lady", there's nothing they can say that shocks her.
"Since I've worked with everybody, I'm not afraid to work with anybody," she said, citing her time working with homeless people, prisoners, and the chemically dependent.
"I do a lot of what's known as self-revelation," said Fleisher. "I talk about myself and that really increases trust. They can see that my life's not perfect. I am not some Buddha sitting up on a pedestal somewhere who doesn't understand anything that they've gone through. I can relate. I can relate to their fear, to their anger ... to their struggles, and disappointments. I have a lot of credibility with the Soldiers."
At 67 years old, Fleischer is a bundle of energy. She said since she had children at 39, she realized she was going to have to keep herself fit so she would be around to raise them. When her husband Charles decided to quit smoking, the pair took up running.
"I hated every minute of it," she said. "But after a while, I'd get home and say, gee, I feel so much better now."
To celebrate her birthday this July, Fleischer plans to run her first marathon. But not just any marathon. She's aiming for the Athens Classic which retraces the legendary 42 kilometer run when a young Soldier ran from Marathon to Athens to relay news of a great Greek victory over Persia.
"It's something I've always wanted to do. If I have to walk the whole thing, I'm just going for it anyway. I'm not getting any younger! If I'm going to do this, I'd better do it right now," Fleischer said.