Female veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War were greeted with cheers and applause at Operation HerStory’s event at the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 in Naperville. The organization celebrated the news that it will take the state’s first all-female veteran flight to Washington D.C. in partnership with Honor Flight Chicago.
Four of those flying are Naperville residents who all served in Vietnam. The vets spoke about the disparities between not only men and women, but also nurses and those enlisted. Betsy Ludwig was a nurse dating a corpsman where they were both stationed. Her major separated them.
“When she first approached me she said ‘you know you’re not supposed to be dating enlisted’ and I said ‘I know, but I’m going to marry him,'” said Ludwig. “And he is here with me now, we’re coming on to 50 years of marriage. So much for the rules.”
Catherine Harvey, who was also a nurse, said being friends with those enlisted was seen as fraternizing. However now, things have changed.
“It’s up to you to be who you want to be and there’s so many, like we mentioned before, so many avenues for women today,” said Harvey. “So it’s just up, up, up. Do what you want to do, what you love. The sky’s a limit.”
First All-Female Flight
The four local vets will take an all expenses paid trip in the sky to visit national war memorials in Washington D.C. “For me, I just met these two ladies here in Naperville,” said veteran Kay Akins. “Meeting other women because it’s kind of like a sisterhood. Hearing their stories, where they were.”
Launching the program has been a major goal for Operation HerStory. The organization aims to highlight women’s contributions to the military and bring the sisters in arms together. Making those connections is what the Naperville vets look forward to, because you never know where one may lie – just like Ludwig and Harvey.
“It was real exciting to see somebody where I live today, was at the same base, knows that base,” said Harvey.
After being postponed last year due to the pandemic, the flight will take off on October 6.
“I’m going for my dad, I’m going for my husband who also is a Vietnam vet,” said Ludwig. “And I’m going for my son who is a Navy vet who flew FATs on two deployments. And for all of our veterans. God bless them.”
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.