After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and American entered the war, young men joined the military in droves leaving big holes in the work force. Women stepped up to fill those jobs traditionally held by men, helping out on the home front and showing what they were capable of in the process.
For Women's History Month, We look back at this classic MSMO episode from February 1, 2016, featuring the story of Bonnie Stedman of McComb who went to work for Illinois Central right out of high school.
Stedman recalls typing orders for the trains, changing light bulbs, and even working as a switch man. Her memories of the challenging and sometimes hazardous work are compelling and heartwarming.
Sergeant Jacquelyn Welborn joined the Mississippi Army National Guard in fall of 2002. In this episode, she discusses her service in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She credits her family’s military history and the events of 9/11 for inspiring her to enlist.
On April 4, 2003, Welborn’s convoy made the arduous journey from Kuwait to Bagdad. She recalls being cheered on by children and the poor condition of their new base at Abu Ghraib. As the NCO in charge of housing, Welborn’s duties included providing overnight lodging for passing convoys, as well as Marine units needing a place to rest. She takes pride in the quality of accommodations they were able to offer the soldiers.
When Sergeant Welborn first arrived at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, morale among the troops was low. She describes how they worked to provide the soldiers with activities, entertainment, and a place to rest.
Mona Astin was working in Washington DC as a secretary when she heard about the Women’s Army Corps. In this episode, she discusses joining the WACs and her decision to go to Europe to assist in the war effort. As a WAC serving in England during the war, Astin helped prepare the invasion force for D-Day. She recalls how German planes and buzz bombs would fly over on their way to targets in London.
In September of 1944, a group of WACs drove a convoy of trucks to the docks in South Hampton for the trip across the English Channel into France. Astin describes riding in a landing craft to Omaha Beach and arriving at the new Allied Headquarters in Rheims.
Six months after WWII ended, all the women who had joined the military were discharged. Astin recalls her service fondly and celebrates the opportunities women enjoy in today’s army.