Each Tuesday, when Delphine Metcalf-Foster walks through the doors to volunteer at the VA Medical Clinic at Mare Island, she thinks about her father.
Joseph Robert Taylor died in 1949, when she was only five years old. As she grew up and learned more about him—that he served in the U.S. Army’s all-Black 9th Cavalry Regiment known as the “Buffalo Soldiers” and later worked for the Navy as a civilian at Mare Island—he became a motivating force in her life.
“He paved the way,” she said.
We celebrate Women’s Military History Week by honoring Metcalf-Foster, whose dad no doubt would be proud.
His legacy ultimately encouraged her to embark upon her own 21-year career in the U.S. Army before retiring as a first sergeant in 1996. Metcalf-Foster’s post-military life as a veterans advocate has been history making as well: in 2017 she became the first woman and first Black woman to be elected National Commander of the Disabled Veterans of America (DAV). That also made her the first woman and the first Black woman to lead any of the three largest veterans organizations (DAV, American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars).
Indeed, she’s become such an icon that two area Congressmen–Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-04) and Rep. John Garamendi (CA-03)—recently introduced House Resolution 251. Should it pass and be signed by President Biden, the Mare Island Veterans Affairs Clinic in Vallejo would be renamed the “Delphine Metcalf-Foster VA Clinic.”
One day, she received a newspaper clipping from 1937. It detailed how her father led a lawsuit against the local officials demanding that Black veterans be allowed to use Vallejo’s Memorial Building. Learning that about her dad made her proud and cemented her dedication to helping veterans.
“It put a fight in me,” Metcalf-Foster said. “He paved the road for me to do things, to give back to veterans.”
Married, in her 30s, and a licensed vocational nurse, Metcalf-Foster joined the Army Reserve in the mid-1970s. She worked at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco, where her leadership skills stood out immediately. She deployed to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, where, in January 1991, she was injured while supporting the Grave Registration Company and was evacuated to Germany for treatment. When Metcalf-Foster retired from the Army in 1996, she received her discharge at the Presidio in San Francisco, where her father had received his many decades earlier. She worked as a civilian quality assurance leader at the Alameda Naval Air Station while building her own legacy by volunteering for veterans causes.
She rose to national prominence through her efforts in the DAV, and also belongs to the American Legion and VFW. Metcalf-Foster attended President Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009. She has served on the advisory board for the VA’s Northern California Healthcare System Veteran and Family Advisory Committee, the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, and the VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. Additionally, Metcalf-Foster has testified during House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings on outreach and services for women and all veterans.
Like her father, she’s motivated others in her family to serve: A granddaughter spent a decade in the Army and did a tour of duty in Iraq while a great-granddaughter is now a medic in the Army.
Just as Metcalf-Foster and her father both received their Army discharges from the Presidio, she and her great-granddaughter shared a base-related moment.
“When I went to her (Army training) graduation at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, I said, ‘This place hasn’t changed a bit,’” Metcalf-Foster told her.
“Great-Grandma, what do you mean this place hasn’t changed?” her great-granddaughter asked.
Indeed, Metcalf-Foster once was stationed there, too.
Perhaps her granddaughter and great-granddaughter will follow in her footsteps as volunteers and veterans advocates as well.
If so, they would follow a path created by Buffalo Soldier Joseph Taylor and one that could someday lead them through the doors of Mare Island’s “Delphine Metcalf-Foster VA Clinic.”
California is home to nearly 163,000 women who served in our U.S. military. They are veterans, family members, friends, business owners, professionals, community leaders, and advocates. Women Veterans served in every major U.S. conflict and in peacetime since our Revolutionary War. For this they are owed a great debt of gratitude. Visit CalVet’s Women Veterans Affairs page.
Thank you for your service.
Mrs. Metcalf-Foster’s life of service is a powerful example that we all should be proud of and seek to emulate. To have continued to build on the legacy of her father & carry on this lifetime of service helping others is truly a testament of her selflessness that’s being carried on by her granddaughter & great-granddaughter.
Please help us get H.R.251 – To name the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Vallejo, California, as the “Delphine Metcalf-Foster VA Clinic https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/251
passed by signing the letter at
You are invited to our HONORING OUR WOMEN VETERANS AND SERVICEMEMBERS celebration at 1pm, March 18, 2023 at 734 Marin Street Vallejo, CA 94590.
1. EMCEE – D.A.V. PAST NATIONAL COMMANDER DELPHINE METCALF-FOSTER
2. COLOR GUARD – US AIR FORCE HONOR GUARD, TRAVIS AFB
3. NATIONAL ANTHEM – US AIR FORCE BAND GOLDEN WEST, TRAVIS AFB
4. INVOCATION – DOLORES MACK, VETERAN & MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
5. WELCOME – VIETNAM VETERAN & VALLEJO MAYOR ROBERT MCCONNELL
6. SPEECH – CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLYWOMAN LORI WILSON
7. SPEECH – CALVET DEPUTY SECRETARY XOCHITL RODRIGUEZ MURILLO
8. SPEECH – US VETERANS AFFAIRS WOMEN’S DIRECTOR LOURDES TIGLAO
9. PRESENTATION OF FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY, &/OR CITY CERTIFICATES