BELOIT, Wis. (WTVO) — Beloit’s retired U.S. Army Major General Marcia Anderson was the first African-American woman to be a Major General in the Army Reserve.

Now retired, Anderson served for 36 years. “I am so proud to be a veteran,” she said.

Service runs in her blood: her father was in the AirForce. But, she says that was not what sparked her military interest:

“I was one of those little girls who was a tomboy, so I liked to play cowboys and Indians and war with my brother and his friends. So, that’s probably where it started,” she said. “I was just kind of an outgoing, outdoorsy kind of person, and I just enjoyed the whole activity.”

From that point on, Anderson said she worked hard and climbed up the ranks, even though it was never her goal to be a general. She said it just happened, and believes her authenticity is what set her apart.

“I was always an empathetic person, so that translated into my leadership style,” she said. “I understood my soliders, or I tried to put myself where they are. And, I also made it a point to learn from my soliders.”

Anderson said that her service to the country has given her a unique experience, that she’s grateful for. Since she retired in 2016, adapting to civilian life hasn’t been too bad, she said.

“My service in the military has made me attractive to different types of organizations. I understand the chain of command, I understand teamwork. I understand the importance of being a strategic thinker. So I think those things have made me attractive, and have kind of helped me transition from those two careers into what I find very satisfying,” she said.

Among her accomplishments is being the first African-American woman with her rank. She said there was a moment when she realized what the impact of that meant:

“I was at a military post many years ago and I passed a group of young women soldiers. And I was with two men soldiers, and I was the junior person in the group. And the young women saw me and their faces lit up, they marched much straighter, they gave me a snappy salute, and I remember the gentlemen with me said, ‘what are we? Chop liver?’ and I said, ‘yes, you are.’ Because they see in me what they can be.”

Anderson has received the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Army Achievement Medal.