Veterans T-shirt brings women together as friends
October 9, 2004
It was a T-shirt worn at the Gardnerville Farmers Market that brought Jan House and Denise Cole together. That and their bond as women who’ve served in the U.S. military.
They served in different services during very different times in America’s history. Neither woman spent long in the service, but they both served their country honorably.
Denise and her husband own V&A Honey in Placerville, though they plan on moving to the Carson Valley soon.
They’ve had hives on the Godecke spread for 15 years and sell their honey at the Farmers Market.
That is where Denise spotted Jan wearing her “Women are Veterans … and I’m One!” T-shirt one day.
“I ordered it from the women’s memorial Web site and wore it the first day at the Farmer’s Market,” Jan said. “She saw me and said I’m a veteran, too. We’ve been friends ever since.”
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Denise was a Navy hospital corpsman from 1966 to 1969 during the Vietnam War and, while she didn’t serve overseas, she was aboard the Hospital Ship Hope for a time.
So when she saw the shirt, she wanted to know where she could get one.
Jan served in the U.S. Air Force as a radar technician during the Korean War.
The Topaz Lake resident grew up in the small town of Piedmont, S.C., where she lived until a month after her 20th birthday.
Not far from her hometown was an Air Force base, where her boyfriend was stationed.
“I told him I had to do something more and he told me, ‘I’ll never speak to you again,'” she said. “I said, ‘OK’ and I joined.”
Young women did not join the military very often when Jan, now 70, was young.
“Joining the service was not a popular thing for a girl to do in my small hometown. I had to get my mom’s permission because I wasn’t 21.”
She believes that in her way she may have helped safeguard the lives of the pilots she watched as blips on a radar screen.
“I’m thinking that had I not been at that scope that particular day, somebody might not have made it home,” she said. “It was an exciting time and at the same time you had to enjoy it or you were in the wrong business.”
Jan spent two years in the service before she had to leave because she’d married the man who said he would never speak to her again and got pregnant. They’ve been married for 50 years.
“In those days they would not allow a woman who was expecting in the military,” she said. “I would have loved to stay in longer.”
She did stay in the service in a way, however.
Her husband remained in the Air Force and they traveled together for years until he retired.
Both women are stumping to raise awareness of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, located at the main gate to Arlington National Cemetery.
Denise said fewer than a fifth of the eligible women in Nevada have registered with the memorial. Registration costs $25 and not all the eligible women have the money to sign up.
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I wrote the first of these columns for the Nevada Appeal on Feb. 20, 2000. I didn’t start the column, that honor goes to Christy Chalmers. I wasn’t even second, that was Robb Hicken. But I’ve kept it up the longest, going for four years and just over seven months without missing a single Sunday.
This will be my last column for the Appeal for a while. If there is one thing I’ve learned about this business, it’s better to say auf Wiedersehen, than good-bye.
Kurt Hildebrand is editor of The Record-Courier. Reach him at email@example.com or 782-5121.