I was born in the small, conservative, southern town of Troy, North Carolina in 1933. My curiosity as to what was on the other side of the mountain drove me to become a nurse so I could enter the military as an officer. I graduated from nursing school at Charlotte Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in 1954. I entered the Air Force Nurse Corps in July 1956 as a tribute to my brother who was a Navy pilot killed during WWII.
After my first assignment at Mather AFB in Sacramento, California, I was assigned to duty at Mildenhall, England. I was the clinic supervisor with three doctors and 18 corpsmen— a position usually given to higher ranking officers. After returning to the States in 1958, I remained in the AF Reserve until my unit was deleted. After 18 years in the Air Force, I transitioned to the Army National Guard’s 175th Medical Group, later called the Medical Brigade. I served over 19 years as the Chief Nurse for the Medical Brigade including three years as the Army National Guard Chief Nurse at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. During my military career, I received many awards, the highest of which was the Medal of Medical Merit.
When I retired my desire to give back included volunteering to prepare meals for the homeless and serving in PFLAG (Parents and Friends of the LGBT community). I am privileged to work as a Hospice volunteer in the “We Honor Veterans” program. In uniform, I visit Veterans who are fighting their most difficult battle—that of life and death. I present them with an American flag, a flag pin and a personalized certificate of appreciation for their military service. Recently, I was honored to receive the National Hospice “Volunteer of the Year” award for this work.
When entering the military I was forced to lie on the forms that asked about homosexuality. I felt strongly that being a lesbian should not prevent me from serving my country and doing my job. Much has changed. In 2011 the crippling policy of Don’t Ask Don't Tell was repealed, ending the institutionalized discrimination that unjustly targeted LGBTQ members of the military who now can serve our country with pride and honor.
I am currently enjoying life with my wonderful wife, Barbara Brass. She has been my strongest support for thirty-two years.