Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part column. Part one was published the previous day.
Yes, women serve and have served in the U.S. military. Afterwards, some devote large parts of their lives serving those who have also served.
Judy Johnson of Sidney, Ohio, served in the U.S. Army after graduating from high school in 1970 and currently serves on the Executive Board of American Legion Post 217, on the Shelby County Veterans Commission, Sidney Veterans Honor Guard, and as a volunteer for Miami County Hospice for Veterans.
… In her role as LPN, Johnson had to wash and clean her patient’s body, fill out tags for her wrist and toe, fold her arms across her body, wrap her body in a sheet, and transport her to the morgue on the bottom shelf of a special cart that had a black drape across the top with the drape hanging down over the sides and the front and back.
A civilian LPN was assigned to help Johnson, but “She was superstitious about touching the deceased. There was fear in her eyes. I said to her, ‘If that’s the way you’re going to be, I’d rather you leave the room.’” Johnson got a corpsman to help her lift the patient’s body.
She remarks, “With each patient, each death, it’s different. You always remember the initial one.”
Johnson’s military service continued as she married her husband, also in the Army and a Vietnam veteran. She trained in the Army’s AMOSIST program to become a physician extender (certified to give physical exams, treat minor illnesses, and prescribe medications) and saw the WACs become the Army, “genuine soldiers and not pretenders.”
Throughout, she continued to deal with a common belief that if you excelled in the military, it was because you “were giving sexual favors to get promoted.”
Then, in October of 1981, she became a drill sergeant (Remember back when?) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where she dealt with a gender-integrated training cycle where some women could excel in paper-and-pen testing but had trouble keeping up with the men in physical areas. She also found that some women seemed to have more personal problems that carried over into their military lives. One recruit threatened to use her three live rounds of her M-16 on the firing range to murder Johnson and her assistant. That recruit ended up in CCF (Correctional Custody Facility) and was discharged from the Army.
There were more deployments and promotions, and in August of 1985, Johnson and her husband and their daughter were off to Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Frankfurt, Germany, where a Red Army faction had bombed the base, killing two Americans and injuring 23. At the time, Communists were also suspected of planting explosive devices on the train tracks around Berlin, making essential train travel dangerous.
Because of the threats, Johnson pulled guard duty for a month at the family’s apartment complex, in addition to her assigned work as a ward master on an orthopedic unit and investigator as the senior on-commissioned officer in charge of 10 outlying health clinics.
From the four-year deployment in Germany, Johnson indicates that she learned the following: “(1) to be alert to anything in my surroundings and report it, (2) to value my life, knowing that things can change, and (4) to realize that other places in the world are not as safe as the U.S. was at that time.”
Thank you, Master Sergeant Judy Johnson (Ret), for your 20 years and one month of active duty, and two years of inactive service in the U.S. Army and for the ways in which you continue to serve our military men and women since that day in July of 1970 when your father said to your mother, “We need to let her go.”
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., teaches telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and works with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.