By Caitlin Dyck
“Nurses, housewives, secretaries, stay at home mothers.” These are all general terms used to describe women in the 1940s. For Leora (Lee) Shingleton-Stewart, that could not be further from what she was as a young adult during that time period. “I chose to live and do things a little differently,” said Stewart.
She was a three-stripe sergeant in the army based in Fort Myer, Va., from February 1943 to December 1946. “I took my basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Tenn. and was then transferred to Fort Myer following that for the remainder of my time serving in the Army,” said Stewart.
Before joining the Army, Stewart did factory work under contract with the Army, putting together gear and equipment for what would soon be her fellow soldiers. “I thought I would never get out of Ponca. My mother didn’t want me to go in to the service, but it was something I chose to do for myself,” said Stewart.
She grew up in Ponca City, Okla. and married at the young age of 16. Shortly after her marriage, she gave birth to daughter, Jenne Marie. Stewart asked her parents to take full custody of her daughter so she could join the service and travel around the country.
“My daughter was so proud of me when I came back, seeing me in my uniform. She just smiled and asked me to come to school with her so she could show me off,” said Stewart. Stewart also has three grandchildren and several great grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren.
Touring around Washington D.C. and going to Georgetown on the weekend, Stewart managed to find time to enjoy the sites while serving. “I got my picture taken next to the different monuments and some friends and I would go to Georgetown and have a beer or two, but I would never finish them, I didn’t enjoy the taste of beer much,” said Stewart.
Many medals and recognitions are given to those who serve and lose their lives in the armed forces. Stewart received the good conduct medal during her years in the Army. “Oh, I got the good conduct medal, but everyone gets the good conduct medal,” said Stewart.
“I have had the chance to go back and visit the places I went to and the ones I was stationed at, although I am getting older, being 91, so I have chosen not to put the burden on others to watch over me,” said Stewart.
Veterans Day is celebrated on Nov. 11 this year. Many different ceremonies take place in remembrance and celebration of the Veterans who served in the Armed Forces throughout our nation’s history. Stewart said, “This day is pretty much like any other to me, although I go to the ceremonies, which I am very impressed by. Some just are more impacted by it then I am. I think those that put the ceremonies on do a pretty great job, and I’m glad I get to be a part of it.”
Like many who live at the Kansas Veterans Home, Stewart was put on a waiting list to be accepted and allowed to move in. “One day I realized I was getting older and thought it would be a good idea to see if I could move in here. I called them and they said it would be up to a six month wait. They called me back in a month and a half and I’ve been here ever since,” said Stewart.
“I’ve lived here since August of 2009 and I love it. The people here are very friendly and always have stories to tell. Like anyplace you move, it’s not ‘home’, but I do enjoy it,” said Stewart
Caitlin Dyck is a senior majoring in general communication. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.