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From 4-H in Corning to Army colonel
A well-laid foundation is key to any success believes US Army Col. Victoria "Tori" Miralda, a Corning native who is now a director at the Space and Missile Defense Future Warfare Center in Alabama.
"I give much of the credit for my success to the Maywood 4-H Club and the wonderful leaders who taught me so much. The values I learned in 4-H definitely laid the foundation for where I am today."
Miralda, 44, of Huntsville, Ala., is the directorate of Capability Developments at the Future WarFare Center where "space capabilities are integrated and inextricably bound up in the 'nervous system' of the US military forces and intelligence capabilities."
Her 26-year military career is stellar. She graduated after four years at West Point, earned a bachelor's and master's degrees, and is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College, and the 82nd Airborne Jumpmaster course.
That was just the beginning. She has more than 22 years of satellite communications, radio communications, switching, and computer network defense experience. She served in Desert Storm utilizing her communications skills. She has received several awards and commendations, has written several published papers and is a top force in her field on a worldwide level.
"I grew up on an olive ranch in Corning and wasn't planning this career," Miralda said. "I didn't start my military career with this end in mind."
She when to West Street Elementary School, Maywood Middle School and Mercy High School in 1986.
"I'm really just a country girl," Miralda states.
Her 4-H career started at the age of 9.
"Keith Kelly was my senior advisor. Under his guidance I showed pigs, horses, rabbits, chickens and steers at the county fair for many years. I was a junior camp director and held positions in my 4-H club. Those were my formation years," Miralda said.
She believes 4-H not only implanted the discipline and structure she needed to be successful in the military, but that at a young age the 4-H pledge of service imbedded in her a deep devotion to serving her fellow citizens.
While in 4-H Miralda became interested in the Guide Dogs for the Blind program. She met 4-H volunteers Bill and Linda Spaletta, who ran the program, and they helped her raise her first guide dog, Rambo, a yellow Labrador retriever.
Recently home for Thanksgiving Miralda had the opportunity to visit with the Spalettas and thank them for their years of volunteering.
"They planted in my heart a deep love of the guide dog program," she said. "While the military is my career, the guide and service dog programs for veterans coming home from deployment is my true accomplishment."
She is active on a research team for animal assisted therapy, which is working hard to pass congressional policy to consistently support the program.
"I have a friend who served in Iraq and came home with both his legs gone. He suffered severe ghost pain from the loss of his legs and was almost beyond help when we provided him with a black Lab named Nate. Now when he has ghost pains he has Nate close by and he is making great improvement," Miralda explains.
She feels for veterans suffering Post Traumatic Stress service dogs are key to the healing process.
"I hold seminars teaching others about what our research team has learned and developed," said Miralda. "It is titled "A Call to Paws."
Sitting comfortably in her family's living room on Chase Road, reminiscing about her past and what her future may hold, Miralda sums it all up to the sure foundation laid by her family, the 4-H Club and its advisers.
"It was all very instrumental to my success," she said.