Early last month, Nadja West was promoted to three-star general. Why is this significant news? Lt. General West (U.S. Army) is also the new Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command. West is the first black woman to become a three-star general. Not only that, she is the highest ranking woman, of any race, to have graduated from West Point. She is of high ambition and high success.

Nadja West’s life began on shaky ground. An orphan, she is the youngest of 12 adopted children. Too many of us ride out our lives letting circumstances dictate what we do—or don’t do. But, not in the West family. “Starting at home, my mom was an extremely strong role model. It was a great family environment,” General West said. Her father was a career military man, and several siblings followed suit. West’s mother grew up in Arkansas and put herself through college, showing by her example what can be accomplished when real effort is exerted. “I had the opportunity to see those ahead of me … really forging the way.”

Lt. General Nadja West is a symbol of ambition, tenacity and success. From orphan to leader, she is an example for all of us.