A native of Monroe, Michigan, Tara moved with her family at a young age to Wyandot County, Ohio. Her blended family gave her five brothers and two sisters, with her being the youngest. Her parents would divorce when she was only ten.
Tara graduated from high school in 1992 where she had been active in choir and school plays. Being a small-town girl and affected by the past family issues and little prospects in the future, Tara was looking for options for her future after graduation that would take her away from her current world. She happened to run into a “handsome Navy recruiter" in her high school common area . She enlisted in the Navy, choosing Operations Specialist school for training.
In August 1992 she arrived in Orlando Florida where she became part of the 68th Integrated Company, a relatively new “coed” basic training project, implemented by the Navy. Except for berthing and bathing, the men and women trained together in every facet, including PT, and the standards were equal for all. “It was tough to be pushed to be completely equal to men, but I survived and graduated from basic.”
Tara was next sent to the 16 week long “A” school in Virginia where she was trained as an Operation Specialist. This included learning radar, navigation, charts and "mo-boards", secure communications and other combat systems technologies.
Tara received orders to join a small naval attachment aboard a (MSC) merchant marine tanker and supply ship, named the Joshua Humphreys. Each MSC ship had a naval attachment onboard. In the event of war, it would be converted into a military service vessel. Tara had chosen orders out of Norfolk, VA to remain in the states to be close to her mother. Instead she was surprised to be given a ticket to fly to Sicily to join her ship, which was busy re-supplying naval vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. “This was a shock to me, a small-town girl!”
She would spend two weeks trying to catch up with the Humphrey's as it moved from port to port. She enjoyed the ship as she had her own state room and shared a bathroom with only one other sailor and the ship had a great crew. She would stay with the Humphrey's for two months before it returned to the states and was dry-docked to eventually be decommissioned. She would serve TAD on several ships for the next eighteen months in the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and the North Atlantic.
She received orders to the Command Flagship USS LaSalle, where she was the second woman crew member, permanently stationed on board, to walk up the gangway. During her duty on this ship she unfortunately experienced a very personal life altering event. This would change her Navy career and life in general forever.
As a result of the shipboard event Tara was placed into TPU and relegated to polishing floors and other maintenance duties pending her discharge from the Navy. A Master Chief, she worked with and respected, encouraged her to join his command at Afloat Training Group, Norfolk and complete her four-year enlistment. She stayed in the Navy and finished her enlistment plus an "involuntary 6 months".
While stationed at Norfolk, Tara married and had two children, a boy and a girl. Tara returned to Upper Sandusky, Ohio 2003 and divorced in 2005. In 2007 Tara married Kurt who blessed her with another son by marriage. Their blended family is thriving and they were just blessed with the arrival of grandson, Elijah Walker Balliet.
In 2004 She applied for and was hired as Veterans Service Officer in Wyandot County. Using her life skills and experiences Tara has been a source of strength and guidance to many other veterans, especially women veterans. In 2010 she transferred to the Seneca County Veterans Service Office as a Service Officer and was recently promoted to Director.
Tara's daughter, Hannah Balliet has followed in her mother's footsteps and is currently serving in the US Navy. (see picture below)
Here is Tara's story in her own words:
“I am a Survivor!”
I have been out of the military a lot longer than I was in. I joined the Navy in August 1992 when the push to integrate women into the fleet was just getting into full swing. I was in the 68th Integrated Bootcamp Company in Orlando Florida (I068). We ladies were held to a very high standard and pushed, to not only meet, but to beat all expectations physically, mentally and emotionally held for new recruits.
My rate was Operations Specialist and began my sea service on board the USNS Joshua Humphreys, TAO 188. Right after I caught her in the Mediterranean we came back to the states and she went into reduced operation status (ROS). I was sent TAD to other USNS ships out of Norfolk for the next year and a half and the longest time I was in the US was two weeks. I did Mediterranean, Red Sea and North Atlantic cruises. I was able to visit many ports all over Europe and in the Middle East. The Humphrey's never came out of ROS and all crew members were all given new orders.
I landed orders to the USS LaSalle.
Once again, I became a pioneer for females in the Navy being the second female to step on board the LaSalle being part of her crew. Females had not been stationed on board while she was the Flagship for the Commander of the Middle East Force. She was known as the “Great White Ghost of the Arabian Coast” because she was painted white. We painted her grey inside and out, lagged the pipes, welded and laid all new tiles during the rehab of the ship. I learned a whole new set of skills during that time in the ship yard.
Life happens. Bad things can happen to a good person and through an unfortunate series of events I was reassigned to shore duty for the remainder of my Navy career until my discharge in December 1996. Everything happens for a reason. Most of the time we cannot see the reason until we are much further down the road and look back and realize just why we must go through the life events that shape us and make us into the people we need to be.
I have the honor of waking up each day and helping the people who took an oath to lay down their lives for this country, their families and beliefs and for me and you. All the tough and enlightening experiences I had in the military were bringing me to this point. Because of them, I am able to make a connection with many veterans and truly help them. Perhaps some of them consider me to be a friend. What an honor!
The military isn’t for wimps, but life after discharge can be even harder for some. When veterans lose hope, it is an amazing feeling to be able to help them get it back!