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Female vets share ageless bond

October 12, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN -- For many Americans, the image of a veteran still is firmly masculine.

They haven't met Lucy Milton.

On this date 66 years ago, the Charles Town, W.Va., woman joined the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps.

It was an adventurous career choice for a young female who had just finished nursing school.

"Everybody was going to war," said Milton, 87, said. "Some of us girls decided we'd go to war, too."

So on Columbus Day 1942, she became somewhat of a pioneer.

"It was unusual enough at that time being a woman in the military," she said. "But my friends and I also went in as officers. We were very proud of ourselves."

As a World War II veteran, Milton is among hundreds of thousands of American women who have served their country throughout the years with courage and dedication.

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Milton is part of a sisterhood bonded by military experience.

She also is a member of the Quad State Women Veterans, an area organization for women who have served in all branches of the military. The group was founded in 1989 and has about 40 members, said Norleen Hoadley of Shepherdstown, W.Va., one of the original members.

Meetings are held the second Saturday of the month at the Williamsport American Legion and are open to any female veteran, Hoadley said.

"It's a chance to get together to socialize and show support for each other," she said.

Hoadley said she served as a dental technician in the U.S. Navy from 1969 to 1972.

"Not many women were joining the military back in the '60s," she said. "We were called ladies and were limited in what we were allowed to do. Now, women in the military do just about everything. There are a lot more opportunities. But there is also a lot more danger."

Hoadley said the group represents all age groups - from those who served in World War II to the current day.

"But regardless of age, we have a special bond," she said. "We really care about each other."

"We learn from each other," said Donna Stone of Hagerstown. "The older members have a lot to teach me."

Stone said she served in both the Navy and Army Reserve, and spent 20 years in the military, including shore duty during Desert Storm.

"I went in on a whim," she said. "I always had been interested in the military, but never thought I'd join. But it was the best decision I ever made."

Barbara Wise of Chambersburg, Pa., served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Japan as a medic.

"We got patients from morning to night," she said. "It was exhausting work, but also very rewarding. I'm very proud of my service."

So is Julie Long of Martinsburg, W.Va., who served in the U.S. Air Force in 1995.

"I think I'm the youngest member of the group," she said. "But age doesn't matter. There's a bond that goes beyond military branch or service during war or peace time. All of us had to adapt in a male-dominated military."

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