Navy Captain Offers Woman's Perspective During Ceremony

Return to Table of Contents

By Pette Ardizzoni

Hampton Union, Friday, November 12, 2004

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Veterans from the American Legion Post 35 in Hampton gather at the High Street Cemetary to honor veterans. From left: Roger Syphers, John Emery, Joe Kutt, Edward Walsh and Ken Buell. [Photo by Jamie Cohen]

HAMPTON - The High Street Cemetery flag furled and unfurled to a silent cadence as the Veterans Day observance ceremony began yesterday morning in honor, and memory, of our nation's veterans.

Under gray skies, Post 35 welcomed a 30-year Navy veteran, CAPT Helen Kranz, as the post's first woman guest speaker.

"Thank you for coming out this fine Veterans Day," began Kranz.

In an address that focused on women and a history of women's active roles in the armed services, Kranz said, "Two hundred and twenty years ago, Margaret Corbin took over her husband's cannon after he was killed. She eventually was wounded and received half the pension of a man and a new set of clothes."

Kranz, who is retired from the Navy, drew a time-line that included Mary Walker who, in 1855, applied to be a surgeon in the Army but was denied. She became a nurse and then the first woman POW, during the Civil War.

She was awarded the Medal of Honor, which the Army later rescinded.

Kranz explained: "She refused (to accept the decision), wore it for the rest of her life and was buried with it."

Women's roles in the military have continued through World War II, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, to the present.

Kranz said more information can be found at the Women in Military Service For America Memorial Web site at

The memorial is important in terms of women's service and its historical perspectives and facts.

"Out of two million women who have served our country, only 250,000 have been registered with the museum to date," she said. "That means that history and stories have been buried in closets and boxes or perhaps lost forever."

As the address concluded, Kranz reminded the gathering that the country's history is alive in everyone who has served and is serving.

"My husband is now a teacher and one of the assignments he gives his students is to go home and ask their parents and grandparents if they've served.

"The assignment is wonderful because many times there is history that the students never knew.

'"So today I urge you to talk to family and friends who have served and let them tell you their stories," she concluded.

Kranz has been active in groups around the Seacoast, offering a support structure for veterans and their families.

During her career, she served in the Philippines while being stationed at Subic Bay during the Vietnam War.

A Salute To Women Veterans

Veterans Day, November 11, 2004

By CAPT Helen M. Kranz, NC/USNR (Ret.)

Good Morning. Thank you for coming out this fine Veteran's Day. Thank you to the American Legion Post 35 Commander, Ralph Fatello for selecting me to deliver this important address to you today about women in military service. It is an honor for me to speak to all of you today.

Women have been active participants in the military for over 220 years. During the American Revolution Margaret Corbin took over her husband's cannon after he was killed. She was eventually wounded in battle and was the first women to get a military pension. She received one half of the monthly pension of a man and a suit of clothes.

During the Civil War women were cooks, nurses, saboteurs, scouts and curriers. Dr. Mary Walker was the only woman graduate from Syracuse Medical College in 1855 and was one of the few woman physicians in the country. She tried to serve in the Army as a surgeon but was turned down and worked as a nurse. She was later captured by the Confederate Army and was the first women POW and the first woman awarded the Medal of Honor. The Army tried to take it back and she refused to give it. She wore it to her death. In 1976 the medal was restored to her.

In 1898 during the Spanish American War, Maj Walter Reed was trying to prove that the mosquito was the cause of Yellow fever. Lara Moss volunteered to be bitten by a mosquito and died in 1901 at the age of 25. The theory was proven correct.

World War I saw over 30,000 women answer the call as enlisted in the Navy, USMC and Coast Guard with no rank or pensions. They joined the military but could not vote at home. They were discharged at the end of the war because they were no longer needed.

In 1942 the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACS) was formed and women were in all branches of the service. Unlike today they received fewer benefits than men. 87 nurses were taken as POW's in the Philippines and worked day and night to care for wounded prisoners, many of whom died of starvation. Rita Palmer of Hampton was one of those nurses. The nurses were held for 3 years and when liberated all survived. Back in the United States over 400,000 women answered the call to "free a man to fight". The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS) were formed and many women were stationed at Avenger Field in Texas. They flew, tested and worked on planes. When VJ day came at the end of the war most were discharged. It is because of women's performance and personal sacrifices in the military during WW II that career opportunities in every line of work became available for all qualified women. These opportunities in the military are available today.

Four days after the first troops arrived in Korea, 57 nurses arrived in Pussan and helped to set up a military hospital. Army Nurse Eunice Coleman received the Bronze star for her acts of bravery in evacuating the wounded from Seoul to Japan.

Over 7,500 women served during the Vietnam War. The majority were nurses who were stationed at evacuation hospitals, field hospitals, mobile surgical hospitals and hospital ships. Many flew medical air evacuations of military personnel to Japan, PI, Okinawa and the United States. Four Army nurses were killed during the Vietnam War in hostile action.

The Persian Gulf War saw well over 35,000 women serve. It was the largest single deployment to date. The troops were known as the "men and women of dessert storm"

In the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts over 1,200 military personnel have been killed. 22 are women. As we stand here enjoying our freedom these brave men and women are in a far off land defending our country. No matter what your political beliefs are, the facts do not change that they are in uniform and away from their families and loved ones. We as a nation learned the lesson of Vietnam. We now support our troops and support their families in their absence and the military veterans have led the way. American Legion Post 35 currently has the lead in the Seacoast area.

The (WIMSA) Women in Military Service to America Memorial, at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC, is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history. This memorial was dedicated in October of 1997. The museum has a Hall of Honor with exhibits and artifacts of women's military service, a 196 seat theater, gift shop and Memorial's computerized registry. The Registry, which serves as the "heart" of the Women's Memorial, is a computerized database of information about the women who are registered. Visitors to the museum can access the photographs, military histories and individual stories of registrants by simply typing names into a computer terminal.

The Registry serves as an active resource, creating an on going record of history as it is made. The WIMSA Foundation is actively seeking to register as many veterans, Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve servicewomen as possible. (Women from service organizations who served overseas during time of war, as well as Cadet Nurses, are also eligible.) Approximately 250,000 of the two million women eligible have been registered thus far.

There is a lot of history buried, not just in our hearts and minds but in our attics, basements and closets. Memories that are not recorded, not passed on, not ever spoken will be lost forever.

My husband who is here today is retired from the USMC/NH National Guard and he is now a high school teacher. One of the assignments he gives his students is to interview their parents and grandparents about any military service they might have had. This has been a big success since many of the students did not know their parents and/or grandparents had been in the military and stationed here and there around the world. So today I urge you to talk to your family and friends who served in the military and allow them to tell you their stories. Your grandmother, mother, aunts, cousins, sisters, nieces and friends could have served in the US military but have gone unrecognized for many years. I have some brochures that have the registry information for the WIMSA memorial. You can also go to I also urge you to visit the Women in Military Service to America museum when you go to Washington, DC.

A World War II Army Nurse said: "Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom".

Thank you for coming out to participate in this Veteran's Day ceremony today. God Bless our service men and women and God Bless the USA.

Return to Table of Contents