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Journey of a Female Veteran

By: Rachael Palm,


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Journey of a Female Veteran

By: Rachael Palm, Hospice of the Piedmont

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They have been called “The Greatest Generation”—the veterans of World War II. It is estimated that one in four Americans who die today is a veteran. Since WWII veterans are dying at an alarmingly quick pace, it is especially important to honor and celebrate these veterans and their service today. Recently, Lucille, 98, a female WWII veteran, was honored with a pinning ceremony attended by her family and residents of the assisted living facility where she resides. The pinning ceremony took place in late August, almost 71 years to the day after Lucille first reported for duty as an officer in the United States Navy.

Lucille said she knew she wanted to join the Navy as soon as she learned that women could be admitted. It was her calling, to bring her passion and knowledge to support the war effort and make a difference. Along with her desire to serve was her desire to enhance her education—she didn’t want to go into the Navy without bringing something of value. She took courses in celestial navigation and offshore sailing before enlisting, and was able to enter the Navy as an officer, because of her undergraduate degree. “I love my country and I loved serving in the Navy,” Lucille said. “It was a great period in my life.”

WAVES ("Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service") recruitment ad,1943

Lucille joined the Navy as an officer in the W.A.V.E.S. (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services) and reported for duty on August 28, 1943, at the U.S. Midshipmen’s School in Northamptom, MA. She served as a Training Officer at the U.S. Naval Training School in the Bronx, NY, from October 1943 to February 1945. She lectured on naval customs, History and Tradition, and supervised the instruction workshop for visual aids during that time.

“They didn’t let women on the ships back then, but I did get on a ship once,” Lucille recalled. A sailor invited her on for a cup of coffee and, despite not being a coffee-drinker, she accepted. She recalled that the coffee was so strong, she could barely drink it! That was her first and only occasion being aboard a ship during her service. Before leaving the Navy at the end of WWII, she had attained the rank of Lieutenant (O-3).

Lucille served as a Shipments Confirmation Officer for the Bureau of Ordinance, Navy Dept., in Washington, D.C. from February 1945 to February 1946. She called this her most satisfying assignment. Her life after her military career was filled with diverse accomplishments. A dedicated academic, she received her Master’s degree in Education from Harvard University then pursued her doctorate from New York University. She experienced success in the business world as a successful certified broker and also nurtured her artistic acumen by studying in France under the renowned French artist Ferdinand Leget, in addition to other Italian masters.

 Amidst her journey, she found love. She and her husband were married for almost 30 years and eventually built a home and settled in Waynesboro, Va. Lucille  eventually opened an art school in Waynesboro, where she taught for many years.

(Lucille, August 2014)

Today, Lucille lives in an assisted living facility in Charlottesville, VA, where the walls are covered with her unique modernist/impressionist-influenced paintings, as well as photos of her military service. She relishes the chance to share stories of her days in the military. “I really felt that I was doing some good,” she said of her service. On behalf of Hospice of the Piedmont and the We Honor Veterans program, we are privileged to honor pioneers such as Lucille and recognize her service and sacrifice.

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