Editor’s Note: This is the fifth essay in a 10-part Women’s History Month series entitled, Honoring Our Nation’s Women Veterans. In February, we asked readers to submit essays about their time in service or women who have served our country.
My name is Candace Lee O’Dell Boulware Ellison. I enlisted in the Women’s Army Corp right out of high school in 1969. My basic and advanced trainings were both at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. Even though I had tried out for the Women’s Army Band, I chose an administrative MOS instead, and my first duty station was at Ft. Sheridan, Illinois, headquarters for the 5th Army. I was assigned to the Emergency Operations Center for a few months, and then I was transferred to the operations section of the headquarters of 5th Army. This is where I met my husband, who had received his orders for a second tour of Vietnam. During my tour at Ft. Sheridan I was a part of an honor guard at a meeting of all of the commanding officers of the posts in the 5th Army, as well as an open house at the home of the Commanding General on New Year’s Day 1971. My company was also a part of a special half-time presentation at one of the Chicago Bears games at Soldier Field in 1970. While my husband was in Vietnam, the 5th Army Headquarters was getting ready to move from Illinois to San Antonio, Texas; he didn’t want me to go there, and asked me to take a marriage discharge, which I did, and I returned home to wait for him to complete his tour. The day before our first wedding anniversary, I was notified that he had been killed in action.
A few months after his funeral, I decided that the best thing for me was to re-enlist in the Army and my next duty station was the Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. I was assigned to the Chaplain’s office and worked with many of the veterans returning from Vietnam. I was later transferred to the Finance office of the 6th Army Headquarters. It was while I was stationed at Letterman that I met my second husband. In 1974, we were transferred to Germany, and finally got an assignment to the 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt after a bit of a hassle with my assignments. Our son was born in Frankfurt. In 1976, we were reassigned to Ft. Hood, Texas, where our daughter was born. In 1978, I was told that I was on orders again for Germany, but my husband was not allowed to go with me. This was when I made my decision not to re-enlist, and I was discharged in November. Shortly after that I got a job at the Civilian Personnel office at Ft. Hood, and stayed there until my husband’s accident. He was given a disability discharge in 1980 and we returned to my hometown. In the years that I have been home, I worked as an emergency dispatcher. I now work as a secretary for a tri-county group in Lansing, Michigan and am a widow again.