On this most recent trip, 25 veterans came along from Jackson, Josephine, Coos, Curry, Douglas and Klamath counties. And among the 25, was one female World War II veteran named Geraldine Ruth Parks.
Ruth Parks enlisted in the US Navy in 1942. She was a WAVE, the very first class of them.
“I loved it, it was great,” Parks says, “it was ‘oh she’s a WAVE’, we were the first, the first of the gals.”
As a telegrapher, Ruth’s job during the war was sending and receiving messages. She was fast. And her speed was put to the test during a shift at the Philadelphia naval yard.
“Craziest thing was when I received a message about German submarines in on the Jersey coast, not very far from where we were stationed,” Parks says, “I had to get it out to 7 different naval stations in Jersey and within minutes I got it done.”
Ruth admits, it was a little scary. But at the time, she got the messages out, and then tucked it away.
“We couldn’t say anything then, people didn’t know it was going on,” Parks recalls, “So I had really forgotten about that all these years until recently. I had blocked it out of my head because we were told not to say anything.”
While Ruth was the only female veteran along for the trip, there was another special woman who was recognized for her service during the war. Florence Schilling was the youngest army nurse in the European theatre. Sadly, she never made it on an Honor Flight, but the non-profit held a special ceremony at the World War II memorial in Washington, DC to honor her service.
Schilling went ashore on Normandy Beach right after D-day, and served with the 138th hospital all the way to the end of the war.
“She’s a remarkable woman, and a hero in my mind,” Honor Flight of Oregon Vice President, Terry Haines says, “and it’s a fitting recognition for her service. Women don’t get recognized enough for their service.”
At the end of the war, Schilling was offered head surgical nurse at Walter Reed Army Hospital, a job she ultimately turned down to return to Southern Oregon to care for her sick mother. She went on to become head surgical nurse at Ashland Hospital. Schilling passed away earlier this year.