SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Irish-American Heritage month provides the opportunity to reflect on Irish Heritage. For Capt. Kara Jarvis, 50th Space Wing Network Operations Group, Commander’s Action Group chief, her red hair and potato soup serve as visible reminders of her own Irish-American Heritage.
According to www1.american.edu, during the Irish potato famine, more than one million people died of starvation or emigrated from 1845 to 1947. Jarvis’ family was among those and immigrated to the United States in 1851.
Ever since she was young her family always celebrated family gatherings around potato soup.
“When all of us kids are actually at home with our families, it’s the meal that brings us all together,” said Jarvis.
Each family member prepared a specific part of the meal. Jarvis and her sister were tasked with peeling the potatoes. Throughout the years it became a bonding time for them, and they still have that responsibility today.
Jarvis makes the soup at home from time to time but getting the recipe from her mom can be difficult.
“Every time I ask her to write a recipe, she never has one,” she said. “It's all the, ‘oh you just make it like this,’ which is a struggle for me as an engineer.”
The soup keeps Jarvis’ immediate family bonded; however, it’s a more visual aspect tying Jarvis to her Irish ancestors.
“As far as being Irish, that's my favorite part because I feel like I'm connected to something that we've forgotten about for six generations, but it's still kind of what ties me to that heritage.”
Non-redheads may not be aware of the red-head color spectrum, but Jarvis said she’s on the “copper penny” end.
“My mom said I was born with the Cheese-it hair which is sort of the bright (kind), and over time, I've gone more toward the copper penny,” said Jarvis.
Her family thinks her red hair came from her great-grandmother Essie but it could also be a mix of her mom and dad’s hair.
“My mom, her original color was auburn and my dad was a strawberry blond so we kind of joke that I got the mixture of the two,” she said.
Growing up with red hair as a little girl was fun and made Jarvis feel special. Junior high was a little more difficult, however, a teacher told her she would have been considered royalty in the Medieval times era with her red locks. High school didn’t get much easier but her hair helped her stand out when she participated in beauty pageants, theater and choir.
Jarvis now has a special connection with her red hair, “I think it's just a matter of finding, having something that made me feel unique.”
In ROTC, she had two other cadets with red hair; one other female and a male cadet. People seemed to get her confused with the other female cadet.
“Apparently all redheads look the same ... question mark.” said Jarvis.
During these ROTC days the three redhead cadets all took on leadership roles and earned a collective nickname of “triumvirate,” meaning a group or association of three. Having two others with a rare hair color gave them a special bond.
“It's always a great conversation starter because if I run into another redhead I instantly feel bonded with that person and I don't even know them and (I just think) hey another redhead,” Jarvis said.
After a haircut one time, Jarvis felt like she had cut a part of her identity off. This made her think of other redheaded people who may be going through something and losing their hair.
“So I try to make sure that when I grow out my hair and I’m ready to cut it I always try to donate it. I want to be able to give another redhead their hair back. It’s just something that I do,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis’ dad was in the Navy, so she grew up in many different locations which help define who she is. However, her red hair and family events around a large pot of potato soup contribute largely to the person she is today and connect her to her Irish-American heritage.