Posted by: deadmousediaries | November 11, 2016

Honoring My Other Mom on Veteran’s Day

She’s a great-great grandma now and as I celebrate more birthdays, the more true it becomes when I say I’ve known her nearly all my life. Yet that’s still less than half of hers. I call her my other mom and my kids grew up as her extended family in a way that brought them no distinction among her other 10 grandchildren. How that came to be is too much story for this little space but know that it has given this only child a second family of more than 40 to love and know and with whom I’m growing older.

   Mom is 95 now. She married and loved only one man for the rest of his life. She worked outside her home, cooked, canned and baked and kept the household running. She pinched pennies and stretched nickels and raised six children. She lost one as an adult. Like so many women of her era, she finds her life unremarkable. All her life, she woke up every morning and did what needed to be done. Even now, she simply keeps on keeping on, as they say, whoever they are that we always quote this way.
    There are a hundred reasons why she is remarkable but with Veteran’s Day here again, I’ll tell you this one thing: she is a Navy vet. She framed her discharge paper with pride and it hangs on her wall, surrounded by her insignias, a yellowed news clip and a photo of beautiful young woman in uniform. It’s the kind of photo kids find of their mom and wonder who that woman really was because they will never meet her.
    She belonged to the Navy WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, and served in Washington, D.C., during WWII. The true nature of her work was unknown to her and to the entire units of women who first helped build the machines, then operated them. It wasn’t until 1977 when President Carter declassified their information that details of what these women did were released. More than thirty years after her work had been completed, she had permission to break her vow of silence and talk about it.
   During the first part of her service, she soldered wires onto little wheels at a plant in Dayton, Ohio. When she returned to D.C., she saw how the wheels fit in place on a giant apparatus where she sat each day. The work she and other women did was done at the code-breaking machines they had helped build. Their work was credited with ending the war two years sooner than thought possible.
   “We were told if talked about it, we would be shot,” she remembers vividly. “My parents died without ever knowing what I did.”  That’s a pretty big secret for a young woman to keep.
   When we hear any veterans’ stories, especially from the second World War, it’s easy to forget the context of their day. The everyday world for most of them was so much smaller than we know it. Home and family were the centers of the universe, not always by choice but by necessity in a time when resources were depleted and travel was a luxury. The expanse of the globe was incomprehensible for many, who like her, spent their early years in modest houses, small schools and tiny towns. In her case, a move from Black Log Valley, Huntingdon County, to Chambersburg, PA, after graduation was an adventure into the unknown. “Back then, you went wherever you could get at job,” she recalls. In the spring of 1943, weeks before her 22nd birthday, she joined the WAVES. “I have no idea why I decided to go into the Navy!” she blurted with a little grin when we talked about it recently.
   “I signed up in Chambersburg and took a train to Harrisburg and then on to New York,” she remembers. “I went to a college campus for basic training. We lived in dorms and learned to march but were only there for a few weeks and were then sent to Washington, D.C., for a couple of weeks while we waited to be stationed. From there, we took a military train to Dayton, Ohio, where we worked, all top secret work,” she told me.
   After the work in Dayton building the machines, WAVES were sent back to D.C. to work on them. “When we went back to D.C., we would work one week 8:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m., then 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., then 12:00 to 8:00 a.m. There were dozens and dozens of machines. They were large, much taller than we were. Sometimes we had to stand on a stool to reach the top. We would get a message on those machines that came out as printed piece of paper and we would take that to the office. We didn’t go in; a hand would come out and take the message. We had no idea what we were doing,” she added.
   “After we came to Washington the second time, they were running out of barracks and they moved some of us into apartments so another girl and I shared one. We got our own meals and did our own laundry. We got an allowance for rent,” she remembered. “We stayed there until the war was over then got discharged. I served about 26 months.”
   Since her discharge in December, 1945, she has led a tradition in her family. Four of her six children served as well as a son-in-law. A generation later, two grandsons served along with a grandson-in-law. Today my son, another man she includes as grandson, is entering his fifth year of military service.
   On March 26, 2006, my other mom, Dolores Flood. was among local WWII veterans recognized by the PA House of Representatives during WWII Recognition Day ceremonies. Her certificate reads: “In thankful appreciation for selfless devotion to duty in service to our country.”
   I honor her service this November 11 and I thank her every day for selfless devotion to family. Happy Veteran’s Day, Mom.
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Responses

  1. I am always so happy to see your name pop up in my feed. Another amazing story. How many of these are out there and we’ll never really know all the details. So many have sacrificed so much………to all of them and their families…………we owe a debt of gratitude.

  2. Such a heartwarming story! Thank you for sharing it and I am very grateful for her and all veterans for their service and dedication to our country.


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