Valvoline American Heroes: Q&A with Navy Veteran Shirley Mitchell

Jun 4, 2019

Here at Valvoline, we’re grateful for our military and active responders who serve our country and we’re proud to have several heroes under our own roof. Shirley Mitchell is a Digital And E-commerce Commercialization Manager for Valvoline, Inc. and served in the US Navy for five years. Read on to learn what inspired Shirley to serve, her memories from the Civil Engineer Corps, and what she does these days in Kentucky.

Photo Credit: Shirley Mitchell

Why did you choose to serve?

I chose to serve because I truly believe that it is an honor to serve one’s country, and for me, the greatest country in the history of the world. This nation was founded by brave men and women who risked their fortunes, families, and very lives because they believed in our rights as humans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe it’s one of the most noble things to do to give up one’s youth in service of something bigger than themselves.

Is there one memorable part of all of your training that comes to mind? Why?

At Officer Candidate School, I had drill sergeants yelling while I did push-ups in goose droppings on a warm day and marched in formation on a sheet of ice with snow on the sides up to my hips on a cold winter day. Standing up in class to keep ourselves from falling asleep because we were exhausted from the physical training and mental toughness required to endure the constant yelling by our drill sergeants. All physical weakness and mental faintheartedness was purged.

I was at Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, during the winter time. One day, I was on color guard duty to raise the colors (the American flag). It was so windy that day that the guy next to me hooked in his arm in the hook of my arm to keep this 105 lb woman from blowing off the stand. But we raised that flag that day that means so much for many generations. Our job was to raise that flag and not let her touch the ground while the wind was gushing and blowing me off that stand. I realized then in a deep way that flag has endured battles and stood the test of time. Through the different wars, in other lands as well as the civil war, and 9/11, it has endured a divisive time in our country’s history. Our flag symbolizes that through the generations there is something bigger than our own little individual lives and something worth laying aside our differences and coming together for the greater good – FREEDOM. Freedom isn’t free. It’s a gift that we should guard and be grateful for and never think we earned it or not realize that we have to protect it. People have given everything so we can live in freedom.

Photo Credit: Shirley Mitchell

What was your favorite construction project you got to work on and what was your role?

I chose to be a construction project manager on the island of Guam because my billeting officer told me that there were many construction projects because of the damage done by earthquakes and typhoons. My favorite project was my first project at the US Naval Hospital that had been damaged by earthquakes and needed to be repaired for the hospital’s JCAHO accreditation. My first time leading a team under immense pressure required my communication skills to be at the top of their game as I led doctors, nurses and staff.

What was your most rewarding experience while serving as an officer in the US Navy Civil Engineer Corps?

In Haiti, I was on a hazardous duty assignment with the United Nations Joint Peace Keeping Mission after the military coup. Imagine conducting your meetings or examining a construction site with a 9mm at your side and being prepared for chaos to break out. I planned and managed the materials for building schools and digging water wells for the local people as part of the United Nations humanitarian assistance. The local people would chase my Hummer begging in Creole for me to choose their village to build a water well. I will never forget the villagers’ jubilant reactions when the translator told them I selected their village.

Who are your American heroes?

The people who run to the sound of chaos and danger, who defend those who can’t defend themselves, who fight for good, and sacrifice for the common good. The people who believe that this nation is worth taking a stand for and do hard things to keep this country great during their generation’s designated time. These people are not only willing to die for what they believe in, but they are also willing to dedicate every living breath and every deed to bring forth good, unite our people, and stand for the greatest country in the history of the world.

Did you have any first responders or military in your family growing up? And did they inspire you to serve?

My dad served in the Air Force in the Korean War before I was born. He gave me a love for this great country and grew up thinking it was an honor to serve the greatest country in the history of the world.

How do your skills from your service lend to your work at Valvoline?

I know how to see the steps that it takes to accomplish a task no matter the size. I know how to build a timeline, assess the risks, see the dependencies and build a team. I know how to lead a team to bring the best of their talents together for the benefit of our company and to complete our mission. Lastly, I know how to be disciplined to get the job done and be tenacious to never give up and to accomplish the mission while having a code of honor.

When you’re not serving or working at Valvoline, what do you do to for fun? Do you have any hobbies?

Even though my P.T. (1.5 miles) pace is a lot slower, I still run. When I travel to a new place on business, I love to take a run outside and take in the sights. I serve on the board of directors for a KY charity that helps women in trafficking get healing.

How does your daily driver compare to the Hummer you drove while serving?

There is an actual road, not a torn down city in rubble, no rivers to cross and no dirt flying in my hair and bugs in my mouth. I don’t need soldiers with M-16s guarding the officer as I navigate the morning traffic.

Since you work for Valvoline, we have to ask, what's your dream car?

Lamborghini Aventador

Photo Credit: Shirley Mitchell

Join us in giving back to our American Heroes this summer. Purchase 5 quarts of any Valvoline motor oil now through July 31st at participating retailers and you can choose to donate a $5 rebate to select charitable organizations. Visit for more information.

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Tags: Culture