Not only does AARP provide practical news and information to help Veterans and military families stay healthy, avoid scams and find employment at AARP.org/Veterans, AARP also works to share unique stories of service. This month we are are highlighting several stories about Veterans and their service experiences.
For decades, Julia Parsons maintained that she worked a quiet, ordinary desk job during World War II. But her job was anything but ordinary. Parsons is a Veteran of the Navy’s all-female WAVES unit, one of thousands of women whose work decrypting Japanese and German communications played a pivotal role in helping the Allies win the war.
Parsons remains tight-lipped about her time in the service.
At 100 years old, the retired lieutenant is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She lives alone and tends to her house with “no problems at all.”
Herb Jones III and Rodney Jones always knew their father, Herb Jones Jr., was a Tuskegee Airman, but did not understand the significance of that until they grew older. “He never really talked about it in the context of the historical significance of the Tuskegee Airmen, which we found out about a lot later on in life,” said Rodney Jones, 63.
“When the Tuskegee Airmen finally started to receive a lot of long-overdue recognition and accolades from the country and the rest of the world,” he added. Serving as a Tuskegee Airman was only the beginning for their father.
Jones Jr. used his flight expertise to open a flight school, cofound a Black-owned airline, and train many pilots. From the time he retired to the time he passed at the age of 96, Jones Jr. went to the airport every day.
More than 3,500 service members received the Medal of Honor since its establishment. But in its 160-year history, only one woman was honored: Mary Edwards Walker, M.D.
Walker was one of the few practicing female doctors at the time and arrived in Washington, D.C., seeking to join the U.S. Army as a surgeon. The Army refused Walker, stating that, “Women didn’t belong in the Army.”
Despite this setback, Walker pursued her goal and volunteered her services to many Washington-based hospitals until she found a doctor that accepted her proposition and allowed her to work as a surgeon.
After almost 80 years, WWII Veteran Daniel Crowley, 98, received his Combat Infantryman Badge for his service with the Provisional Army Air Corps Infantry Regiment. Crawly defended the Bataan Peninsula from Japanese forces and spent many years as a prisoner of war (POW).
As a prisoner of war, Crowley performed forced labor and endured other hardships as a POW. The Japanese sent him from the Philippines to Japan aboard a “hell ship.”
Aboard this ship, approximately 300 men endured inhumane conditions like lying in their own waste, with little food or water for 11 days. In Japan, the Japanese military forced Crawly to work in some of the country’s most dangerous copper mines.
Bob Kroener, 78, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and civil engineer, finally attended his graduate-school commencement in May after waiting 49 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced him to wait an extra year, but it was worth the wait. Kroener missed the actual commencement ceremony in 1971 because the Air Force deployed him during the Vietnam War.
Years later while thumbing through the University of Southern California’s alumni magazine, he thought it was finally his time to walk across the stage.
Kroener is particularly thankful that his three children and his three grandchildren witnessed the occasion. His oldest grandson, who has one more semester of college, watched his grandfather’s ceremony ahead of his own.
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