MAPLE HEIGHTS- Helping to heal the wounds of war, a Bedford High School alumni reflects on a life that has carried her across oceans, to dictators and even to war. Now the combat veteran is sharing her story this Black History Month in hopes it inspires you to never place limits on who you can become.
Dr. Tracy Ringo looks quite at home wearing her white coat and examining medical charts, but the journey to this moment began decades earlier, triggered by a painful loss.
"My grandmother Rebecca Mitchell she was the matriarch of our family," said Dr. Ringo with a smile on her face. "She was the glue to our family. When she got sick I said, 'Well of course she's not going to die because God knows we need her.'"
Mitchell's death was swift and Dr. Ringo says the loss was a catalyst for a higher calling. One that would lead to history making service to community and country.
As a young adult, Dr. Ringo says it was the color of her skin that served as a barrier for her medical school counselor to see her potential. She explained the moment when he handed her a pamphlet full of careers other than doctor and explained how she already had two strikes working against her dreams.
"...He said you're black and female and therefore you're going to need to pick something else. I said, "I will, I'll pick another counselor."
According to a spokesperson at the Ohio National Guard Public Affairs Office, Ringo was promoted to Colonel in 2014, making her the first Ohio Army National Guard African-American female Colonel. She is currently the highest ranked African-American woman in their service. A fact that continues to blow her away.
"How did I do all of that in such a short period of time? When you're focused on the work that you're doing, you don't realize all the work you're actually putting into it," explained Colonel Ringo.
The biggest test of the Colonel's 30 year career came during the Iraq War. Where in the face of danger she was tasked with healing visible and invisible wounds.
"A mental amputation is how one soldier described it," recalls Col. Ringo. "He said my mind is different and I'm changed forever because of where I was."
Oddly enough the one person who wanted no healing was the dictator at the center of the war.
"I was the next up to actually take care of Saddam Hussein, who had just recently been captured and because I was female he refused to have me treat him so they had to send me to a different site," said Col. Ringo with a smile.
The colonel's deployment sparked a new dream, a practice to call her own opening next month in Garfield Heights.
"It is such a huge accomplishment for me. I am so proud because I want this to be a place where people can come and actually get healing not just on a physical level but on a spiritual level," said Col. Ringo. "This is a ministry of health."
Colonel Ringo says through faith all the marvels of her life were possible. She hopes her story encourages other girls who look like her to believe in themselves even when others do not.