Sun Senior News
By Sandi Dolbee
Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. Members of Lavender Friends, a club of LGBT residents and their allies, have served in each of these branches of the military. In preparation for Veterans Day next month, we reached out to our veterans for their stories.
Air Force officer Mary Thompson.
Here is some of what they shared:
Jerry Moothart received his draft notice on his 18th birthday in 1945. He was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Wash. Although the war ended before he could be sent overseas, Jerry witnessed some remarkable changes in the Army made by President Harry Truman.
“The first was to issue bedsheets to all. Prior to that we were issued two wool blankets and one mattress cover for your cot,” he said, adding that you should try sleeping under a wool blanket without a sheet to buffer you. “The next change was racial desegregating of the troops. Segregation was normal until then. It was like the Black Army and the White Army. Separate platoons, barracks and mess halls.”
Polly Bowen was in the Army Nurse Corps from 1950 to 1955. She served in Washington, France and Germany, where she worked on troop trains bringing injured and ill veterans and their dependents to hospitals.
Wayne Kusick was in the Navy for four years during the Vietnam War, from 1968 to 1972. He served on two ships — the battleship New Jersey and the guided missile destroyer Preble— 20 miles off the coast of Vietnam “I enjoyed my visit to Yokosuka, Japan, when my USS Preble was anchored off their coast,” he said. The ship was invited to a one-day festival, carnival and parade to commemorate the signing of the trade agreement between the U.S. and Japan.
“I am a proud member of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC),” said Patricia “Pat” Bailey, who was a dental assistant at Ft. Lewis, Wash. Pat was in the WAC from 1975 to 1978, the same year it was disbanded and its units combined with the male units. After her discharge, she joined the Army Reserve and served for five more years.
Bev Cielinski was in the Coast Guard from 1974 to 1996, serving in stations from New Jersey to California. “When I joined the Coast Guard in 1974, only 400 women per year were allowed on active duty so I went through the Reserve and went through boot camp and Boatswain Mate A school,” she said. “Then I returned to my home town of Jacksonville, Fla., and drilled with the Reserve unit until I could get into the active duty Coast Guard. I had to switch my career path from running the boats to becoming a Storekeeper.”
And then there is Mary Thompson, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, serving as a nurse from 1959 to 1980. “I wanted to see the world and I thought this was a good way to do that,” she said. “I have to say it worked out pretty well.”
Among her assignments: Korea, the Philippines, Spain, Turkey and Vietnam, where she helped evacuate wounded soldiers to hospitals for treatment.
Mary especially liked the camaraderie. “Being a nurse you get lots of positive feedback from most everyone.”
When asked if she did a good job, her familiar wit kicked in. “You’d have to ask those poor people who had to put up with me.”
Veterans Day got started as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I and to honor those who served in the “war to end all wars.” In 1954, it was changed to Veterans Day and is today a holiday generally used to honor all American veterans.
We thank you for your service.