About Deb

Cadet Debra M. Lewis

West Point ’80

 Colonel Deb Lewis

District Commander, GRC

Deb Lewis

Founder, Mentally Tough Women

Deb Lewis’ father was a World War II, Korean War and Vietnam Veteran who graduated from West Point in 1950.  Deb was born in 1958 in Frankfurt, Germany, where her father was assigned. She has been on the move ever since! Growing up, Deb graduated with honors at McLean High School and competitively rode horses and swam. As their youngest and only girl, Deb’s father and mother included her in all sports activities her brothers did. All three children chose to serve for a time in the military. Making history, Deb graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (est. 1802) in the first class with women. She served 30 more years in the Army, rising to the rank of Colonel. 


After earning a Harvard MBA and teaching Management and Problem-Solving at West Point, Deb commanded three US Army Corps of Engineer Districts – Philadelphia, Seattle, and Iraq. In combat, she was responsible for a $2.1 billion reconstruction program. She also worked on the Joint Staff Antiterrorism Office in the Pentagon as their Engineer Advisor during 9/11. She co-led the worldwide project to finalize the military’s manual to keep people safe in buildings. Few people know that the plane hit the only renovated side of the Pentagon on 9/11. This saved the building and countless lives. In 2003, Deb earned a second Masters Degree in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.


Immediately after Deb retired from the US Army in 2010, she supported her husband LTC (Ret.) Doug Adams as he bicycled 50 States in one year (18,067 mi) for our Military, Veterans and their families. As a new RV’er, Deb drove their rig over 26,000 miles and coordinated all logistical and PR details. On the last day, Doug rode his bicycle 222 miles around Hawai‘i Island. Soon after, the couple was invited to participate in the Hawaii Island Veterans Day Parade. Three months later, fellow-Veteran Denise Nakanishi helped them find their dream home in Hilo, a place they now use as a base to continue their mission – “Live Life to the Fullest, With Love, In Service”.


Both Deb and Doug belong to many non-profits. This November 7th, 2020 will be Deb’s 6th year as the Chair of the Hawaii Island Veterans Day Parade. For the past 3 ½ years she was the Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3830 in Pahoa serving Veterans and the island community. She is currently Hawaii’s VFW Senior Vice Commander. Deb serves on Hawaii County’s Military Advisory Committee and is Hawaii Island’s representative for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in DC. She is also a Trustee for the Lyman Museum, Hilo.


As a charter member, Deb helped organize the Hawaii Island Women’s Leadership Forum. She has led workshops to further empower, strengthen, and nurture women to succeed at work and at home. As a member of Zonta of Hilo, part of a global organization that empowers women and girls, Deb helped facilitate Zonta’s February 28th, “Magnificent Me” event for over 100 middle school girls. Deb is very proud of her own daughter Emily, who will be working for NASA after completing her Ph.D. at Stanford.


Deb is a frequent guest speaker and gives presentations to a variety of groups. She is a contributing author in a number of leadership and management books. Deb recently founded her business, Mentally Tough Women, to widely share her strategies, insights, and tools. Her goal is to boost the confidence and leadership skills of women and their families to handle stress in today’s challenging world.  Throughout Deb’s trail-blazing 34-year Army career and ever since she has turned difficult situations into leadership moments to make a positive difference. That’s a legacy worth sharing.



  Pink - is the color of universal love of oneself and of others. Pink represents friendship, affection, harmony, inner peace, and approachability.  Pink is the official color for little girls to represent sugar and spice and everything nice. Pink also represents Breast Cancer awareness that disproportionately affects women's health.

  Purple - Purple ribbons are worn to acknowledge domestic abuse that disproportionately affects women who become wounded physically and emotionally. Purple is also a color that is the symbol of peace, courage, survival, honor, and dedication to ending violence. In the US military, the color purple represents the unity of the multiple branches of service, to solve global problems together, and is referred to as the Joint Staff.

   Black - Black is a mysterious color that is typically associated with the unknown or the negative. Here it represents strength, seriousness, power, and authority that women can command with a noble purpose.

   Silver - Silver is a precious metal color and symbolizes the riches and wealth of spirit residing within women.  It is also associated with graceful, sophisticated, elegant, modern, and strong. Silver naturally reflects light and often glitters reminding us that "Life glitters when we do."


   Shield - the shield represents protection, both for oneself and protecting others from harm.  It also represents steadfast principles, commitment, and loyalty to benefit the common good.

   Heart - the heart is the focus of our physical and spiritual well-being. It is the symbol of love of oneself, all beings, and life itself. It is compassion and understanding, life-giving, and complex.

   Sword - the T is shaped like a sword to do more than represent Toughness. It symbolizes power, protection, authority, strength, and courage - all qualities needed to persevere in the face of adversity and when attacked by others. 

Letters - M, T, and W. represent Mentally Tough Women. The M and T are identical and reversible, representing the reality that life can be turned upside down, and yet we still stand strong.  The M also doubles to represent the many enlightened men who have helped MTW succeed in life.  MTW does not operate to exclude men but to include those men who understand our future depends on us all working well together.