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Veterans’ Reflections: Volunteers Who Join the Fight

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2010 – Like many young people in the 1940s, Jessie Clark didn’t think of the military so much as an option after college, but rather as an obligation.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Former Navy hospital corpsman and World War II veteran Jessie Clark discusses her military service during an interview July 21, 2010. Clark joined the Navy after college and served from 1943 to 1945. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Selby

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

When she enlisted after graduating from Lasell College in Newton, Mass., there was no questioning her motive or reasoning.

“Well, everybody was going to war,” Clark said. “At that time that’s what you did, I thought, so when I graduated from college, I joined the Navy.”

Clark was stationed at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Corvallis, Ore., near a naval auxiliary air station. As a hospital corpsman, the young petty officer cared for troops who were ready, or almost ready, to be released from care.

“They had to go through a period of observation and rehabilitation before they could be sent home,” she explained.

During her service, she learned a lot about nursing and medicine, a skill set that would help her later on in life when her late husband, himself a pilot and veteran of World War II, became sick in his later years.

“I learned a lot about medicine and about taking care of patients,” she said. “It was very helpful for me, because my husband became ill, and it didn’t bother me to care for him. I took care of him for 20 years.”

Clark said her husband was the more admirable of the two of them – though the patients who stayed in Corvallis may disagree. He flew some 30 missions over Germany, and survived being shot down once while he was based in Italy.

“To me, he was more of a hero than I was,” she said.

During a recent visit here, Clark visited the World War II Memorial for the first time. Though the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, resident had visited the National Mall previously, she had yet to see the memorial dedicated to her service and the service of her peers.

“It’s this massive thing!” she exclaimed. “It brings back memories. You can see people. The Atlantic, I think of my husband. The Pacific, I think of my brother. You see the states, and you think of people you knew from those states.”

Clark said it’s important for people to keep in mind that today’s conflicts aren’t fought by everyone; they’re fought by a group of volunteers who signed up to join the fight. Servicemembers, she said, should be proud of that.

“Servicemembers should feel honored to be able to serve the country,” she said. “And people should honor those who do serve. They volunteer, it’s what they want to do, and they should be allowed to. They should be honored, every day.”

(“Veterans’ Reflections” is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veterans Day.)


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Related Sites:
Special Report: Veterans’ Reflections


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