March 8, 2023 By Carol Britton Meyer
Hingham resident Krysta Cass will be part of Team USO — a group of volunteers running to support active-duty service members, veterans, and their families — in the 2023 Boston Marathon April 17 to raise money for United Service Organizations, Inc.
“We all have a different reason we’re running and for me, it’s for those who no longer have that luxury,” Cass, an Army veteran, told the Hingham Anchor. “Loss is a difficult, unknowable thing. Soldiers lose lives, limbs, and purpose, and it’s my hope that with the money we raise, the USO will be able to provide resources and purpose to veterans in need.”
Not only is the USO ranked top on Cass’s list of veteran organizations, “it’s also one of the few that work to support actively serving members of our Armed Forces while also supporting veterans and their family members,” she said. “For me personally, it was through the USO that I was able to make my first phone call to my mom after arriving on my first deployment to Afghanistan.
I’m the youngest of four children and the only service member, so you can imagine how concerned my mom might have been at the time.”
Running in the Boston Marathon has always been on Cass’s bucket list. “This will be my sixth marathon but my first since transitioning from active duty service,” she said. “While it’s a bit harder to train for a marathon while working four jobs as I do, I know that the funds we’re raising are going to support soldiers who need it the most.”
One of the challenges about running a race in April is the need to train during the winter. “I spent a few months in New York City this past fall and was able to see the city in a new light,” Cass said. “Since returning to Hingham, I can’t get enough of running to my favorite local coffee spots — Seabird Coffee in Cohasset and Redeye Coffee Roasters in Hingham. I’m so fortunate that both runs take me by the ocean, which is always a good view!”
As background, Cass graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2010, where she studied medicine and engineering. After graduation, she commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.
Six months after graduation, Cass embarked on her first deployment to Afghanistan, where she took over a platoon of 49 soldiers and was tasked with reinforcing the Afghan-Pakistan border. She went on to complete two additional deployments to the Middle East in 2012 and 2014.
During her time in the military, Cass earned the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medals for her overseas contributions, along with numerous other medals and ribbons. She left active duty in 2016 and served 1-1/2 years in the reserves.
Cass explained what attracted her to joining the Army. “While I have a family history with the military (my grandfather was in the Navy, I have an uncle who was KIA in Vietnam, my godfather was in the Army, and my dad was in the National Guard), I was more inspired by the opportunity to defend not just my nation, but also our allies,” Cass explained. “Most people can tell you exactly where they were on 9/11.”
She recalls being in science class “and feeling a total sense of shock that someone (and some thing) could wreak that amount of havoc on the world. While I didn’t recognize it at the time, a sense of purpose was planted within me.”
Fast forward to high school, where Cass talked with her friends about all the potential colleges they could go to and whether they would stay in Connecticut where they lived at the time or travel the world — and would she study medicine or law.
When it came time to apply, Cass found herself looking at West Point. “I remember clicking on the website and thinking, what’s the harm in applying –I probably won’t even get in. . . .and then I did.”
Four years at West Point flew by as Cass found herself making “incredible and deeply driven” friends.
“I learned the proper way to jump out of airplanes, how to fly helicopters, fired more weapons than my mom would probably be comfortable with, and found a place for myself in the world,” she called.
What attracted her to engineering, Cass explained, was that “engineers leave places better than they find them. We build roads and airfields, bring electricity, water, and other utilities to remote areas of the world and provide freedom and independence. So while I was in the military, and while there were a few close calls, I loved what I was able to do. I learned more about myself, my communities, and the world at large.”
After transitioning from active duty, Cass enrolled in the Tufts University School of Medicine Physician Assistant program and upon graduation in 2018, joined the orthopedic surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
While practicing as a physician assistant, she pursued her Master of Business Administration at Yale School of Management, where she developed “a passion for data analytics and learned how to apply these principles to strategy and business operations,” Cass said.
While at Yale, she took a class that exposed management students to critical legal and regulatory issues affecting organizations.
“The goal of the course is to provide students with knowledge and skills to ascertain and avoid legal risks, identify competitive opportunities, and contribute to long-term organization performance,” Cass explained. “As part of my final project, I chose to highlight a case that I considered had practical application to any soon-to-be business school graduate/future entrepreneur: JLM COUTURE, INC., Plaintiff, v. HAYLEY PAIGE GUTMAN.”
According to Cass, the defendant of this case signed a contract at a young age without legal counsel. Within nine years, she was regarded as one of the most sought-after bridal gown designers dressing tens of thousands of women across the world on their most important day, a fan favorite on “Say Yes to the Dress,” and ready to expand into new categories only to be sued in federal court over the use of her birth name.
“The case was very near and dear to my heart. Not only did I admire her as a designer and her hard work to get to where she was but also because I knew that I would have likely done the same if given the opportunity (eagerly sign a contract and overlook the fine print to pursue my dreams),” Cass said. “I wanted to humanize my presentation and provide a soundbite of what she was going through, both personally and professionally, and was shocked when she called me back to discuss presenting live to my class.”
Through their shared appreciation of social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and veteran affairs, Cass and the designer decided to start the non-profit A Girl You Might Know Foundation, dedicated “to protecting the interests of young female creatives and entrepreneurs during the formative time of their careers,” according to Cass. “While working on this, we also joined forces to launch a women’s specialty shoe company, She is Cheval, which inspires women to bring their authentic selves to work and kick up the dust from time to time.”
In addition, Cass is Vice President of Strategic Development for a private equity backed industrials company, Chief Operations Officer at She is Cheval, a Teaching Fellow at Yale School of Management, and a physician assistant.
Cass joined the USO two years ago and serves on the Advisory Board. “I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to give back and support active-duty service members, veterans, and their families,” she said.
In addition to building morale and welfare, the USO also connects transitioning soldiers with employment opportunities, supports veterans and family members with similar resources, as well as providing for Families of the Fallen.
“The USO has supported every dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base since March 1991. As family notifications occur at all times of the day and night, the USO works 24/7 to coordinate among USO centers across the country to support the myriad needs of families who have just received tragic news,” Cass explained. “The USO’s reach expands beyond Dover, with a vast network of support for our families of the fallen from coast to coast.”
As a member of the advisory board, Cass helps shape the USO’s plans for the future, identify opportunities to support veterans, and volunteers as much as possible.
Cass enjoys living in Hingham. “It’s an amazing town — a coastal safe haven ready-made for summer adventures every time you come home — I can’t get enough of it!”
In her free time, she enjoys paddleboarding every chance she gets in the summer and running through World’s End and Wompatuck State Park. “I also can’t get enough of Stars, Tosca, and Square Cafe!” she said.
To make a donation, go to https://www.givengain.com/ap/krysta-cass-raising-funds-for-united-service-organizations-inc-uso-/#timeline