About 10% of veterans in the United States are women, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Mirror spoke with local female veterans to lift up their stories of time, service and dedication to country.
U.S. Army E-4 Specialist Trudy Davis enlisted in 1985 after finishing college in Washington, D.C. Davis said she remembers wanting to be a soldier just like her dad, who was a drill sergeant training soldiers. As a little girl, she remembers putting on his uniform and boots, marching around their basement.
She attended basic training in South Carolina, advanced training at the now-closed Fort Henderson in Indiana, then went to Fort Campbell in Kentucky, where she met her husband. They were both moved to Germany, where they married and spent three years before being stationed at Fort Lewis near Tacoma.
While in Germany, her husband was deployed to the Gulf War.
After months of little-to-no contact, care packages sent in the mail, and one video message, he returned safely, although the impacts of the war were something Davis said she never heard him speak about until years later.
As a personnel management specialist, Davis’ units were often connected to field artillery units, so “when they were in the field, we were in the field.”
Being in the service shapes you as a person and provides you with a lifetime of skills and opportunities, she said, along with the gratification of taking part in something bigger than yourself.
“It is a thing of pride when you look back in your life, you want to say ‘what service did I give to my country? What did I do?’” she said. “That’s what I saw in the military. It’s something really special.”
She wore her uniform with pride, starched to the max and boots shined just how her father did. After leaving the Army in 1992, Davis flies her American flag on Veterans Day with pride.
“It feels like right now our flag has been hijacked and not for good. It’s losing the meaning for the rest of us who want to honor a family member or other loved one who served that you fly a flag for,” she said.
The flag honors time and dedication to the country, and when the symbol is flown off the back of a vehicle or seen touching the ground, “it breaks my heart when I see that. That’s not what it’s for.”
Though the meaning is taking on a new representation, Davis and her neighbors — one who served in the Korean War and another who served in the Army — will still raise their flags in honor of those who have dedicated their time, lives and well being to the United States.
“On this corner, the flags fly high for a different meaning,” she said.
U.S. Army E-4 Specialist Jennifer Stroupe is a Federal Way resident and volunteer at the William J. Woods Veterans House in Federal Way. Stroupe, a Massachusetts native, enlisted in the Army right after her high school graduation in 1990.
After attending combat medic training in Texas, eight medics out of 400 were selected to be stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, and Stroupe was one of them. As an Army medic, Stroupe drove ambulances and earned her Emergency Medical Technician certification.
She met her husband, Ken, who is an E-5 Sergeant, while in the service. When she was expecting their first child, she left the Army in 1993. After a move back to her home state and another 15 years spent in Hawaii, the couple and their kids moved to Washington two years ago.
Through Family Life Community Church, Stroupe has been a volunteer at the WJW veterans center for about a year where she sorts and organizes the incoming donations for veterans to pick up on a weekly basis.
“The hardest part I think in some ways is getting them to open up,” she said. “But once you earn their trust, they love to talk about their experiences. Sometimes it’s just about being an ear there and hearing their story, and I just love that part of it.”
In Stroupe’s family, her father is a Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran, and both her grandfathers served in the military — one as an Air Force pilot and the other in the Navy.
“I was the first Army member in my family, so I completed the circle for my family to get all four services represented.”
Army Major Elena Howard is a 21-year veteran of the Army. Howard served on active duty from Sept. 1986 to January 2008. She currently is the Scoutaster for Troop 148G in University Place.
An ROTC graduate from Clarkson University/SUNY Potsdam in New York, she entered the Ordnance Corps and spent a total of five years at Redstone Arsenal training. She was assigned to the 515th Ordnance Company.
“Alabama was an interesting experience for a New Yorker,” she said.
After Redstone, she was stationed with the 84th Ordnance Battalion in Muenchweiler, Germany, serving as a Supply Officer and Headquarters Company Commander.
She and her husband lived there for two years and were able to travel to the newly opened East.
After living in Washington, D.C., the couple were stationed at Fort Lewis in June 1999. Howard was the S4 of the 593rd Corps Support Brigade and the S3 of the 44 Transportation Battalion.
One of her missions at the 593rd was to research and initiate the naming of the dining facility and parade field.
“My parameters were that the soldiers had to be Congressional Medal of Honor Winners and Logisticians,” she said. So, the parade field is named after William Wayne Seay (Oct. 24, 1948 – Aug. 25, 1968), a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration — the Medal of Honor — for his actions in the Vietnam War.
Seay was a Driver in the Transportation Corps and the Dining Facility after Eric G. Gibson, she said. Gibson was a technician fifth grade serving as a cook in the 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.
In 2001, Howard went to England to serve as an Army Exchange Officer and returned to Fort Lewis in 2003 where she spent the next five years with the 191 Training Brigade.
Her son joined scouting as a Tiger cub in 2004 and earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 2014.
“When Boy Scouts of America allowed girls in, I picked up the reins,” she said, which include lots of camping and training to visit Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico next summer.