"I'd love to serve my country forever" – Lucy Coffey
108-year old Lucy Coffey, the oldest woman veteran in the country, expressed her desire to visit Washington, D.C in an article in the San Antonio Express-News. She said, “I'd like to go to see things that are there that were not there before. It's been a long time since I've been in Washington...”
Enter Allen Bergeron, chairman of Honor Flight Austin. After hearing about Ms. Coffey's quest, he contacted Rene Banglesdorf, founder and CEO of Austin-based Charlie Bravo Aviation, to fly Coffey to Washington, D.C. on a special charter flight. Honor Flight is a nonprofit, volunteer-run charity organization that flies World War II veterans to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. They arranged her to visit Washington last weekend, on July 25-26, 2014.
During her trip, Coffey visited the WW II Memorial as well as the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. This memorial is “a unique, living memorial honoring all military women - past, present and future.” She then went on a tour of the White House where she had the opportunity to meet President Obama.
The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was established on May 14, 1942 because military manpower was already diminished because of the men fighting in World War II. The WAAC was created as a “noncombatant service with the Army of the United States for the purpose of making available to the national defense when needed the knowledge, skill, and special training of the women of this Nation.”
Ms. Coffey joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in 1943. However, right after the war, the WAAC was converted into the Women's Army Corps which was eventually disbanded in 1978. By that time “women were fully assimilated into all but the combat branches of the Army.”
But after the war, some members were allowed to stay in their military theater. So Coffey stayed in Japan for a decade before returning to the U.S. and settling in San Antonio, Texas. She eventually worked at Kelley Air Force Base from 1958 to 1971.
About those who served in World War II, Honor Flight Austin posted this reminder on their website,
Of all of the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation and as a culturally diverse, free nation. It is estimated that 640 World War II veterans are dying each day, our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out.
We veterans thank Allen Bergeron, the other members of Honor Flight Austin as well as Rene Banglesdorf, founder and CEO of Charlie Bravo Aviation, for making Lucy Coffey's wish possible.
As Special NCIS Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs would say, “Ooorah!”
Note: You too can help make it possible for other World War II veterans in the Austin area to make a trip to visit "their" memorial by making a donation to Honor Flight-Austin. This organization serves the following counties here in central Texas: Bastrop, Bell, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Gillespie, Gonzales, Hays, Lee, Llano, Milam, Travis, Williamson Counties.