Twice a year, the Freedom Honor Flight in La Crosse takes veterans on the trip of a lifetime to Washington D.C. for an opportunity to see memorials built in their honor.
The veterans share a common bond of service, but the experience brings out individual stories as well.
Recent numbers from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs estimate that 10-percent of American veterans are female.
Women have contributed to war efforts since the birth of our country, taking on roles as early as the Revolutionary War.
As times have changed so has the culture of women in war.
Nearly 350,000 women served in the United States Armed Forces during World War II. One of those women was Lucille Strohbeen.
"There are very few of us living," said Strohbeen.
She was training to become a nurse when she was recruited. Two of her closest friends were sent overseas, as she stayed stateside to work in an operating room.
"We did surgery for the men," Strohbeen said. "There were a number of men that came in from Germany. You know, they had that cold winter."
If you ask her what it was like to be a woman in World War II, she remembers equality and fairness.
"We were all treated right by everybody. There was no problem with that," said Strohbeen. "The men liked to have some care. Some medical work, surgical work."
Ask that same question to Korean War veteran, Joan Paczkowski, and you will get a different answer.
"That was something else," she said. "They’d look at me and say, ‘Why did you go in?’ And, I would say, ‘I went where the boys are!’"
Paczkowski worked in communications as a radio woman, sending messages from her base.
"I just loved being in the Navy, and I was proud of it," she said. "I didn’t get to do any combat. In those days, we always had the office jobs to keep us safe."
They are two different women from two different wars, but both say that looking back they would do it again.
Another thing that both women share is an appreciation for the Freedom Honor Flight. Paczkowski expressed her gratitude for the hard work organizers did to make it possible. Strohbeen told News 19 that when she first heard about it, she thought it was too good to be true.
So what was it like serving as a woman in the war during the twentieth century? Paczkowski summed it up: "I’m going out to see the world, and this time, I’m going to let it see me."
If you are a veteran interested in going on the Freedom Honor Flight, an application can be found online.
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