Sisters in service: Carrying on a century-long tradition of military service

Sisters carry on family tradition of service
Sisters carry on family tradition of service 05:44

In our ongoing series, Profiles in Service, we introduce you to Americans who dedicate their lives to helping others. In this installment, you'll meet the Easter family with a tradition of service stretching back at least 100 years. The three Easter sisters are the fourth generation of military service on both sides of the family. "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell recently caught up with the Easter family at the United States Military Academy at West Point.


For the Easter sisters, answering the call to service felt natural.

"My dad never even really talked about the military, 'cause he had three daughters and didn't wanna pressure any of us into going into the military if we didn't want to," Cori Easter said. "Service just means playing your part to protect your country and the people that you love."

Added her sister, Madi, "When I was younger my parents would tell me…'Serve with a servant's heart.' And that just means sacrificing like and always being grateful."
 
But the trio does it with an individual twist. Each got accepted into a different military service academy. Cori is an alumnus of the United States Air Force Academy. Madi, the youngest, is in her sophomore year at West Point. Adrienne, who was busy studying for exams and couldn't join her sisters, will graduate from the Naval Academy in May.

"I think we grew up with a lot of structure too in our house. Just very disciplined – in a good way," Cori said. "I think – just the military was I mean just natural." 

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Members of the Easter family along with "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell CBS News

Stacey drilled into her daughters that they didn't have to conform to traditional gender stereotypes.
 
"Our parents never raised us like the typical girl," Cori said. "You know, they never said that we couldn't do anything of any sorts….They never limited us."

"My dad too….He would just look at me like any of the other people and say, 'You can lead men. Why not?'" Madi said.
 
Their dad, Luke, flew F-15 Strike Eagles for the Air Force during two tours in the Middle East in 1991 and 1993. He retired and became a commercial pilot. Cori, his oldest daughter, followed him into the Air Force and paved the way for her sisters. Youngest sister Madi, apprehensive at first, found her home at West Point.

"Just seeing my sisters go through all the trials and tribulations that made them the people they are today; I was afraid of that. I was intimidated by that….But there are no regrets, no," Madi said.

Military academies maintain rigorous academic schedules in addition to everything else they require, building the kind of character needed to push through the challenges that lie ahead for graduates. It's a trait that serves Cori, who is now deployed and flying MQ-9 Reapers. 

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Stacey, Madi and Cori Easter CBS News

"I really enjoy my mission. I got a great family supporting me," Cori said. "And we're there doing a good cause….So I think a lot of people can hold on to that, and know that there's a reason for what we do."

Naturally, Luke is proud of his girls. The only thing he and his wife wish is that their grandfathers were alive to see them enter the academies. It's an emotional notion for both parents.

Stacey's father Bill Pelfrey helped discover a secret network of tunnels the Viet Cong were using during the Vietnam War. He was even featured in a "60 Minutes" report about his work along with his fellow "tunnel rats."

"That was my dad. He was so funny," Stacey said of the clip. "He had this….Kentuckian twang even though he always claimed to be from Tulsa, Oklahoma."

From the grandfathers to the trio of sisters – the fourth generation of Easters to serve in the military – no one has paid the ultimate sacrifice of dying in the line of duty. For now, Stacey doesn't worry about Madi, who is in an irregular warfare unit, getting deployed just yet.

"I think why else come to one of the – the best academy in the world if not to train to help and do the purpose that we were here for?" Madi said.

History-making West Point cadet 06:02