We asked you to tell us about inspiring women in your life. We went through hundreds of nominations in our Remarkable Women contest. After telling you the stories of our four finalists, we have our winner: Micki Eubanks of Hutto. Here’s her tremendous story.
HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — Mrs. Eubanks ushered us into her classroom on a rainy Monday afternoon. The troops should have been restless; their attention spans waning as the clock ticked ever so slowly toward dismissal. They could have been prone to distraction and that distraction could have easily been us.
Yet, the students in Mrs. Eubanks’ personal finance class hardly gave us a second glance. It was obvious they know the conduct their teacher expects from them. Their eyes trained on the projector screen as she returned to her lesson.
“Saving for retirement is not that fun,” Mrs. Eubanks tells them. She doesn’t sugarcoat it. It’s not in her nature — not as a high school teacher and certainly not as a Marine.
A career in the military wasn’t a foregone conclusion for Micki Eubanks. She didn’t grow up in a military family, she didn’t play with G.I. Joe dolls and idolize prolific military generals and she didn’t even feel particularly called to serve.
“At first, honestly, it was really about survival,” Eubanks said. The Maryland native finished high school and didn’t see a clear path forward. She contemplated joining the Navy and becoming a nurse. Her stepfather took her to a Navy recruiting office where she was informed there was a two-year waitlist.
“I just wasn’t willing to wait that long, and my stepfather was like, ‘Let’s go next door to the Marine Corps recruiter.’ I was like, ‘OK.'” Her tone is nonchalant as if she’s recalling going to an ice cream shop for a scoop of vanilla but leaving with strawberry because they were out of vanilla. She’s not indifferent, but rather exceedingly modest.
What started as a means to a financial end evolved into a military career spanning two decades punctuated by deployments, relocations and a stint at the Pentagon. She earned two college degrees, a Bronze Star and the respect of her fellow Marines.
“It’s not altruistic all the time, you know — I loved the Marine Corps. I mean, there were certain parts of it that I didn’t like a lot; I didn’t like family separation, which we had quite a bit of,” Eubanks said.
She and her husband raised four children while they were both active-duty Marines. Needless to say, they moved quite a bit.
“Say goodbye to all your friends, and go to a new strange place where you know no one and have to start that process all over again, [that] can be intimidating, but she helped all of us make that transition seamless,” said Dwayne Eubanks, Micki’s husband. To hear him tell it, failure has never been an option for his wife; whether working in a combat zone or driving the kids to soccer practice. “Micki is a warrior in her spirit.”
It’s an interesting juxtaposition: Micki the warrior and Micki the woman who greets us at the family’s peaceful country home in Hutto. She’s soft-spoken and measured. We can tell she’s not wholly comfortable talking about herself, let alone being the subject of a profile story highlighting remarkable women. We suspect she’ll feel more at ease when she’s in her element, so we ask to shoot the interview in her barn.
Micki grew up on a horse farm and her affection for animals is palpable. I ask some logistical questions and I sense she’s minimizing her professional accomplishments. Then she concedes: “I had a couple of cool jobs. I was the personal secretary for the Commandant of the Marine Corps, so I worked in the Pentagon for a few years.”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
“She won’t take credit for a lot of the things that she should take credit for,” her son, Christian Eubanks, tells me a couple weeks after I first met his mother. I’m relying on him and his dad to fill in some blanks for our story; to offer color commentary that compliments Micki’s understated play-by-play retelling of her life’s work. We spent hours with her touring their property and meeting their livestock. She’s far more interested in telling us about her fascination with beekeeping than she is telling us about all the hardware pinned to her dress blues.
KXAN: “Your husband mentioned a big award…”
Micki: (furrows her brow in confusion)
KXAN: “He mentioned the–“
Micki: “The Bronze Star? (laughs) The Bronze Star is an award that you can receive for essentially doing a really good job in a combat zone.”
KXAN: “You did a really good job in a combat zone.”
Micki: “I did a really good job (laughs). Thank you. I did my job — I don’t know how awesome it was.”
She opens up about her military communications work.
“Our specialty was being able to go out in the middle of nowhere and stand up basically the civilian equivalent of an ISP and provide services to about 500 users or whatever the case may be.” That work, along with the graduate degree in information systems she earned in the Marines, helped her land a job with Cisco in Austin after she retired. She worked there for more than a decade before transitioning to teaching at Stony Point High School.
Of all she’s achieved, she seems most proud of the work that doesn’t come with a paycheck: being a mom and serving others. Three of her children chose to serve in the military. Her eldest was in the Army. He and his family live in Florida now. Her daughter is a gunnery sergeant in the USMC stationed at Camp Lejeune with her four children. Micki’s second youngest is a first lieutenant in the Marines. He’s married and has one child. The youngest, Christian, works for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in Houston.
Micki and a friend founded the Pflugerville Farmers Market in 2008. She operated it for two years while also working full-time before she was able to hand it over to the City. Now she volunteers weekly for Horse Empowered Learning Programs.
“I’ve seen the changes in children’s lives that are just mind-blowing and it’s all through this connection with the horse.”
She tends to her own horses — oh, and two donkeys, several chickens, eight beehives and a cat — each day after school.
“I have a lot of energy and I like to be productive,” she said. “I mean, it’s kind of that simple.”
It doesn’t end there, though. She does some open water swimming, she competes in triathlons and marathons, she’s an extreme hiker and rides street bikes. Her husband says she gives it all she’s got and that’s why she’s been so successful, even in the male-dominated world in which she existed for more than 20 years.
“She could out-shoot, out-PT (physical fitness test), any of the males that were around her and the Marines were very respectful of her because of that,” he said.
We arranged to stop by one of Micki’s classes a couple weeks after our initial meeting. Dwayne Eubanks, who recently retired as an ROTC instructor at Stony Point, joined us. Micki expected our intrusion, but she didn’t expect to see her son standing beside us. Christian, her youngest, lives in Houston. Her students missed the brief flash of emotion we witnessed in the hallway. Her eyes lit up as she registered her son. The surprise warmed to adoration as the usually unflappable Mrs. Eubanks whispered, “Oh, my sweet baby!” so quietly that only we could hear it. She quickly regained her composure, barely skipping a beat before she was back to business, leading us inside where she picked up the lesson right where she left off: saving for retirement. Retirement — a concept Micki understands, but she just can’t sit down long enough to try it.
“She is intense,” Christian said. “[She] does all these incredible physical things, but she’s still very compassionate; a mother, a wife. She’s got so many boxes that are so fully checked. It’s wild. It’s inspiring.”