In 1967, the Summer of Love was over. Viet Nam protests were barely beginning, and I found myself without a place to live, and had quit a job with an abusive boss. I did not know what to do, and so I joined the USWACs. The Army was segregated in those days — not by race, but by sex. All WAC training was held at Ft. McClellan, AL and so the Army flew me out to begin my training. It was in Alabama, in 1967 that I first observed racial segregation. I saw “whites-only” bathrooms and water faucets. They were NOT just a “left-over” relic from an earlier and sad time. They were a commentary on how far we still had to come, and have come.
In 1968 I was stationed at Ft. Huachuca, AZ at the Combat Surveillance School/Training Center Headquarters. I was on my way home to California when an automobile accident almost took my life, and did take my leg.
I ended up at the Veteran’s Hospital in West LA, associated with UCLA medical center. The medical care there was the best available. What wasn’t the best, was how they treated women veterans. We were a rarity, and the VA was not set up to deal with us. There were no changing rooms for physical therapy for women vets, and I was the only one in the program. They had me use a broom closet. I was in therapy with a few WWII vets, but mostly with Viet Nam vets, youngsters like me, who had been blown up in the war – had lost one or both legs, one or both arms, or some combination of amputations. It was a difficult time, but that was 40 years ago.
Today, my son-in-law is in Iraq, serving along side many women. The WAC no longer exists. My daughter and grandkids await his return at Ft. Carson, Colorado Springs. I am hoping he comes back in one piece, with all his pieces.
Today, we honor our veterans, from all wars, across time and oceans and death. Today, I’d like to honor my step-father, a veteran, who died this past Saturday at the age of 93. Bruce was an incredible man. He was a Jew. Bruce was arrested in Vienna and taken to a school that was being used as a jail by the Nazis. He was told that he would be released if he got out of Austria within 24 hours of release. He left Austria and went to Estonia where he worked for a farmer in the underground for one year. Then he managed to come to the US under the sponsorship of the man who owned GTX Rail Cars. This man sponsored 6,000 Jews during WWII. He lost his entire family to the Nazis. When he got to the United States, he joined the Army and became an American citizen. They sent him to Africa to be an interpreter. He did not like to talk about his experiences during WWII. He just did what he had to do, and then gave back to his “adopted” country.
It is veterans like him that I salute today. You did good, Brucie, now rest, we can take it from here! We will all miss you more than you can know.
Items of Note: Possible prescribed burn on Weds. the 12th at Andrew Molera; Sand bag party on Friday, the 14th, and two concerts coming on Sunday the 16th. See the announcement page for details.
3 thoughts on “Thanks, Veterans! & Announcements”
Kate…what a story! Great to read on this day….except for the treatment you got as a woman. But no wonder you are the strong, focused, incredible woman you are today! Thank you for sharing this.
Kate…I know you paid heavy dues. You have lost a leg, but you have gained in mind and soul. You are to be respected, along with all who have sacrificed for our country, regardless of political orientation. I add this note below. There are other vets in Big Sur who have stories, and prefer to remain quiet. Processing past experiences is a personal thing, and like Jana’s father, he held silent his spectacular WWII story until just a year before his passing at 82 in 2007.
This was a thought sent to a veteran friend today. You may enjoy my sharing this story with you. We all have our stories, and they should not be forgotten.
This is our day. The both of us being vets, we should take a moment to treat ourselves. For me, maybe surfing a wave of painting a watercolor, and for you, a ride on your Harley on the coast in this beautiful weather we have today.
I look back at my Navy days. Yeah, I saw the world…Japan, Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea. It took several years from the prime of my life, serving, at the “convenience of the government” (COG), and I paid some prices. I got a lot of “sea stories”, though, like the typhoon, the collision the USS Wabash had with the aircraft carrier, Guadalcanal, and the intense UNREP’s that kept us up on station for over 96 hours straight, until sleep deprivation started to do some really weird and dangerous things to our minds (our Supply Chief got his foot run over by a forklift, and got his foot smashed flat…losing most of it). Other crazy things happened. The Vietnam war was coming to a crazy end in ’73, and we were called out on a lot of emergency missions.
Upon return to CONUS, we were shoved back into normal USA life. After release from active duty, I got to go back to my college education, but things were different. Creative focus was harder to access. I had to put in more effort and deal with things. But there were some benefits. The G.I. Bill made it possible for me to get my teaching credential…so I guess my service is one of the factors in how I got to be a teacher…never would have believed that.
But in the 70’s, being a vet was not a thing you wanted others to know. Like in the movie “Coming Home”, vets from Vietnam were “baby killers” and “facist pigs” etc. So I just got quietly back into civilian life and put those military years behind me…a chapter of life to be closed. Not much thought about it for decades…life went on. But a couple of years ago, in Cascade, Idaho (my “other Big Sur”), Post 60 of the American Legion (of which I am a member) invited me to march with them in the 4th of July parade. As we turned the corner onto Main Street in that little mountain town, I was stunned by THOUSANDS of people cheering thunderously. Slogans of “Thanks for serving our country”, and “God bless you for serving”, and on and on filled the air. I was in shock! Last Summer, the same event repeated itself. Even more …thousands cheered us as we marched. I did not know there were so many people in the mountains of Idaho!
I remember my “fishin’ buddy”, Bob Kevan, my wife, Jana’s dad. He served in WWII as a front-line Marine in Tarawa, Tulagi, Guadalcanal, Saipan, and Guam. He was one of the two survivors of his entire battalion that entered the jungle on Tarawa from the landing crafts. His story was incredible (I’ll tell it later), but he would not relate it until his last year of life. Fortunately, Jana recorded his amazing story. Now, whenever I fish in Idaho, his good spirit is RIGHT THERE with me sayin’ “welcome back, ‘Fish-on’! This trout is for you!”.
Nov 11, 2009
Very moving entry and picture Kate.