Leading with grace; she came from a long line of service members
- -Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Zandra Maldonado, a fifth grade teacher at Feelhaver Elementary School, holds up a photo of her son, U.S. Marine Edwin Lenchanko, and a photo of her late father, U.S. Navy seaman Edwin Lindsey. Maldonado served nine years in the United States Army, from 1992 to 2001.
Nearing the 20th anniversary of her honorable discharge from the United States Army, Zandra Maldonado looks back on her service with pride.
Maldonado, a fifth grade teacher at Feelhaver Elementary School, enlisted in the Army in November 1992, when she was a senior in high school in Maui, Hawaii. In June 1993, she left the islands for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
“I come from a long line of many generations of military personnel,” Maldonado said. “My great-grandfather was a staff sergeant with artillery in the Army. My father was a seaman, as was his brother. His sister was in the Air Force.”
On her mother’s side, she had four uncles who served in the Army.
Despite coming from a long line of service members, Maldonado didn’t always plan on enlisting.
“I wanted to go to college, but no one else in my family went to college, and I didn’t know how to do it,” she said..
And then one day, an Army recruiter came to her classroom and she learned about opportunities the military has for tuition assistance and the G.I. Bill for college.
After completing basic training, Maldonado became a financial specialist and spent much of her career at Fort Ruger, on Oahu, Hawaii. Joining the military during peacetime meant she didn’t have to take any deployments or overseas training rotations.
“I was really lucky I guess, but the thing is I knew when I signed on the dotted line that basically there was a chance that I would have to sacrifice my life,” she said. “And I was willing to do that for this country, and I was willing to do that to protect my family and my friends.”
Maldonado’s nine years in the Army taught her many lifelong skills and values like loyalty, discipline, perseverance, integrity and commitment — and she’s turned around and put those lessons into her teaching.
“Although I’m not like a drill sergeant, I do have expectations for my students,” she said.
The Army also taught her how to be a leader.
“I was very forceful and controlling when I was younger before I went to the Army,” Maldonado said. “I got to observe and learn how to be a leader with grace. You don’t always have to be shouting in someone’s face. Just the grace and showing guidance like that, they really showed me how to be a teacher. … It kind of harmonized with what I’m doing now.”
After being discharged from the Army, Maldonado took her G.I. Bill benefits to the University of Hawaii, where she received her bachelor’s degree in education and became a teacher.
Even though she chose to not reenlist in the Army, Maldonado stays connected to her military roots. She’s active in the American Legion in Jefferson, where she lives.
Today, Maldonado’s son continues her family’s military tradition as he serves in the United States Marine Corps.