World War II was a turning point in global history, an event that had a large and lasting impact on many people and places across broad areas of the earth. Compared to other wars, World War II involved the largest armed forces, the longest battle lines, the most destructive weapons, the most casualties, the most destruction of cities and other human assets, and the highest monetary expenditures. More than 16,300,000 American men and women were enrolled in the armed services during World War II, 1941-1945. Over 400,000 troops lost their lives and over 609,000 were wounded. Over 7,000 women served in the Army (WAACS), Air Guard (WASP), or Navy (WAVES). During this period, 200 active service women perished.*
Although I am proud to say that both of my Grandfathers were veterans of WWII, the service person that I would like to introduce you to looks different than the image that most of us have of veterans. She is celebrating her birthday with me this weekend. I am turning 18, she is turning 80 - milestones for us both.
My Grandmother (Mu is what we call her), served in the Navy during WWII. She is not much more than 5' tall and I can comfortably rest my elbow on her head. She stands taller, in my eyes, than many women of her generation because she found the courage to serve her country in a time that it was much more acceptable for men to respond to the call.
Although time is slowly erasing her memories, and her stories about the service are often repeated, I know how much the experience of the war affected her. She smiles as she tells us about the man who forced a rude bus rider to get up and and show proper respect for a member of the service while she was stationed in Virginia. She beams with pride as she remembers being afraid to drive a car back home, but easily mastered the Motor Pool Jeeps on base. Tears pool in her eyes as she remembers a brother that lies in a famous graveyard in England, a casualty of the war. I listen with interest to each story and make the most of the time that we have together.
She has been an example to me of how important it is to do what you think is right even though many may tell you it's not your place. As I pursue a career in law enforcement, I can thank Mu, and the other strong women role models in my life for encouraging me to make a choice that leans a bit to the non-traditional side. Thank you again Carol Louise Blackstone Lenhart, Seaman First Class, Personnel Separation Unit, U.S. Naval Barracks (Women's Reserve), Mu.