• October 24, 2014

Women recount time spent as WACs

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Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 4:30 am

When LaValla Blum joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1943, she was sent out to a post in Las Vegas, Nev., where she scooped ice cream at the post exchange.

She said no one seemed to know quite how to deal with this sudden rush of women arriving on post, but she enjoyed her time in the auxiliary.

“We didn’t know how to act and they didn’t know how to take us,” the 92-year-old Killeen resident recalled.

By the time Suzanne Lawrence joined WAC in 1972, “auxiliary” had been dropped from the name, but women were still in a separate Army corps from men. Her physical training uniform was a skirt she had to iron so it could stand up in the corner on its own.

“It was hard for me, because I was a tomboy,” said Lawrence, now 62 and living in Gatesville. “I almost got kicked out of basic, because I didn’t know how to iron.”

Her career continued — to see women integrated into the Army in 1978. She spent the final two of her 13½ years as a drill sergeant for both men and women, learning to teach a very different basic training from the one she experienced as a private. She didn’t even get weapons training until about three years into her service.

Both women are now part of the Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association, Genevieve Chapter 94, which will unveil a monument to female service members Saturday at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.

The monument includes an illustration by Killeen-based artist Don Moore, featuring a series of female soldiers in the many uniforms they’ve worn over time, starting with Oveta Culp Hobby, the first director of the women’s corps. He called the drawing, “Proudly Serving.”

While Moore plans to attend the monument’s unveiling, he said it’s not because it features his work.

“I get a bigger kick out of honoring soldiers,” Moore said. “I’m now retired, but I still think of myself as a soldier. I still think like a soldier.”

Retired Col. Martha Jane Trudo, judge for Bell County’s 264th District Court. will be the guest speaker for the event. Trudo joined the service in 1972 and was commissioned as a captain. Since she was a woman, she was part of the women’s corps and worked with the Army’s JAG Corps.

On Saturday, Trudo said she plans to talk about the service of women and the changes over the years. During her time in the service, she said her opinion was, “you always had to work twice as hard to try and be equal.

“Women coming in now still have issues and concerns and there are still some people perhaps not accepting of women in the service,” Trudo said.

The women of the veterans chapter who raised the $6,000 needed for the monument said they hope people who visit the cemetery see it and remember the sacrifice women have made for the United States.

“It’s dedicated to all women who served,” Lawrence said.

“I hope they really appreciate what the women have done,” Blum said.

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