CIA nominee Gina Haspel's family proud of her achievements
By EMILY PORTER | The Daily Independent, Ashland, Ky. (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 14, 2018
A cluster of homes on a dead end street in Kentucky sits on a property that has been in the Walker family for over 150 years. In these homes are where CIA director nominee Gina Cheri Walker Haspel spent some of her childhood.
Relatives of Haspel said couldn't be prouder as she answered questions at the Senate hearing held in Washington this past week. Haspel will soon be up for a vote to determine if she will be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the first woman to head the agency in its history.
Jackie Walker Stapleton is a Boyd County resident who is Haspel’s aunt. She and her daughter, Kathy Helms, Haspel’s cousin, watched proudly as Haspel answered questions from the US Senate Intelligence Committee in her confirmation hearing this past week.
Haspel is acting director of the CIA and has been with the agency for over three decades. During that time her family knew she worked for the government, but didn’t know the extent.
“We thought she was an interpreter,” Stapleton said. Haspel studied language and journalism at the University of Kentucky for three years and graduated with her bachelors from the University of Louisville.
Stapleton said Haspel knows multiple languages, so it now makes sense. Haspel has remained in contact with her family even while serving overseas. Stapleton said she always knew, at least generally, where her niece was in the world.
“I knew when she was in Turkey...Africa,” Stapleton said. Haspel would send gifts home to family from different countries she visited. She always kept in touch and still does, her family said.
Randy Stapleton is Haspel’s first cousin. He said Haspel’s father was in the military and her time in Eastern Kentucky as a child was not extensive.
“She was born here in Ashland and attended some elementary schools down in Russell,” he said. “She stayed with us maybe a month one summer when she was going to [university]. A very humble person.”
Helms remembers when Haspel came to Lexington to watch Helms’ daughter in a tennis tournament at her alma mater.
Helms and Jackie Stapleton describe her as an ordinary girl, but highly intelligent. When Helms was about three or four years old, Jackie Stapleton and her husband were driving Haspel home. Even as a young child she was able to describe exactly how to get to her house and directed Stapleton’s husband to her house, turn by turn, she said.
“She’s always been wise above her years,” Jackie Stapleton said.
She’s a lot like her father, Stapleton said. Haspel’s father was a career military man serving in the Air Force for many years, which took Haspel and her siblings overseas when they were growing up.
All of Haspel’s uncles and at least one brother have served in the military. Her aunt explained that she had an interest in military and the operations when she was in high school.
Haspel’s bio on the CIA’s website explains she wanted to go to West Point, but her father had to tell her she couldn’t because only men were admitted.
Now, Haspel has risen through the ranks and is the first female Deputy Director of the CIA and is now the first woman nominated to be director.
Her family is extremely proud of her and believes she has what it takes for the position. Now in a public position in the CIA, her family now knows a little more about Haspel’s life.
“She’s been through a lot,” Jackie Stapleton said. “I’m glad I didn’t know."
Helms credited Haspel for her service to her country. Everything she’s done was to serve her country and she’s given up 30 some years to protect the US, she said proudly.
The two women recalled moments of their life with Haspel. Stapleton recalled a memory of helping to move Haspel out of a dorm when her pet hamster got loose.
The Senate Intelligence Committee will vote to move the nomination to the Senate floor or not. If moved, Haspel will then need a majority vote from the Senate to be confirmed as the next director of the CIA. Neither vote has been scheduled.
©2018 The Daily Independent (Ashland, Ky.)
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