It’s funny how a person interacts with others throughout the day without ever knowing the other’s story.
Kim comes into the Library quite often. She always stops to chat and offer book recommendations.
“Did you get the new Michael Stanley book?” She asked.
“I just saw it advertised in the newspaper,” I answered, “so we’re working on it.”
“I’m in it,” Kim said.
Michael Stanley had written a series of stories about Owen County Residents taking part in the World War II honor flights and those had been collected and published as a book. This was his second outing, From the Trenches, documenting World War II and Korean War Veterans from Owen County who took part in a second honor flight to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C.
Kim was an eighteen-year-old girl working in a five-and –dime in Fort Smith, New Hampshire, about 50 miles outside of Boston, Massachusetts, when she persuaded her father to let her join the Air Force back in 1952.
Kim spent three months in basic training at Lackland, Texas before being sent, much to her chagrin, to Andover, Massachusetts and the Westover Air Force Base.
“I wanted to see the world,” Kim remembers, “and they sent me back to Massachusetts.”
Kim was soon sent to Korea at the tail end of the Korean Conflict and was set to work as a secretary.
Kim remembers mostly fun times in Korea, the swimming and the dancing at the Juke Box.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Kim says, despite the occasional KP duty and the time she overslept and had to scrape wax off the dining room floor as punishment.
Kim also remembers the men she served with. At the Korean War Memorial she reminisced, “To see those faces, they’re so young. Of course, I looked at them then and they were the same age as I was, they weren’t young. But I look at them now and they are so young.”
Kim left the Air Force in 1955. She married and moved to Indiana where she worked at the War Memorial in the Downtown Circle in Indianapolis and in a couple of swanky nightclubs where she met the likes of Louis Armstrong, Vaughn Monroe and Billy Daniels.
Kim believes the service gave her a solid footing and career training that, combined with the discipline of military service, served her well throughout her life. Kim relates, “Whenever I talk to girls and they don’t know what they want to do, I say ‘Join the service.’”
In some ways Kim feels it was safer for women in the service during the Korean War than for servicewomen today, “Our barracks had 24-hour policing,” she notes, “you were treated with a lot more respect, you just weren’t one of the guys.”
Kim does recognize the increased opportunity offered to women in the service now. Kim was passed over for a third stripe despite glowing letters of recommendation. “They told me I would have had that third stripe, except that one of the other fellas who was interviewed had just got married and had a baby, so they figured he needed the money more than I did. So he got the stripe,” Kim recalls, “They could never do it and get away with it now.”
Today Kim is a widow. She spends her time traveling and attending educational workshops and live performances at local theaters. She often visits her two daughters, who live back East, and her granddaughters. Sometimes she vacations with them but she always stops by before she goes to use the public computers and check out books to read and make requests for books she would like to read and to make a little small talk before she leaves.