This is my annual Veterans Day post, with but a slight modification, as my son-in-law has returned safely from Iraq.
In 1967, the Summer of Love was over. Viet Nam protests were barely beginning, and I found myself in unusual circumstances in an unusual time, 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. Racial segregation, at least not overt, was minimal in California. It was still rampant in Alabama when I was there.
In 1968 I was stationed at Ft. Huachuca, AZ at the Combat Surveillance School/Training Center Headquarters. (Spook School) 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 just returned from Iraq, serving along side many women. He came home whole, physically, thank goodness. The WAC no longer exists. Women train and work with men. Such a different Army than the one I joined.
Today, we honor our veterans, from all wars, across time and oceans and death. Today, I’d like to pay tribute to all veterans, but especially to my son-in-law, Michael Cannon, recently back from Iraq, and my step-father, Bruce Mises, a veteran, who died one year ago Sunday at the age of 93.
Bruce was an incredible man. He was a Jew. He escaped Auschwitz (actually from a train as they were transferring him) and was smuggled out through Hungary to the United States. He lost his entire family to the Nazis. When he got to the United States, he joined the Army and they sent him to Africa to be an interpreter. He did not like to talk about his experiences during WWII. They were not pleasant. He just did what he had to do, and then gave back to his “adopted” country.
It is veterans like the two of them, and all the others I have had the pleasure of knowing, through service, and Veteran’s Hospitals, and Clinics that I salute today. I am one of you, and as long as I live, I will not forget. Welcome home, soldiers. You are safe, now.