Four Delaware residents made history on Sept. 10.
The quartet was among 80 Ohio women veterans who took the first all-women’s Honor Flight.
“It was awesome; very overwhelming,” said Phyllis Manley.
She, Jan Anible, Lucille Barkley and Alma Eshelman had a busy — and long — day as part of the historic event.
“We left at 8:20 a.m. and didn’t get back home until about 9:20 p.m.,” Manley said.
Among the stops were the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, an adjacent women’s memorial and the Korean and Vietnam war memorials.
“There are eight women’s names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall,” Manley said.
“It was a very long day and hot, 102 degrees on the heat index. But we had water and umbrellas. They took very good care of us.”
Manley said she was the youngest attendee at age 59, with the oldest one turning 100 this month. “She was very alert.”
The group was greeted by 100 active duty military personnel from the Air Force and Navy. Upon their return to Columbus about a thousand people turned out to welcome them back, including area Boy and Girl Scout troops.
Manley served her country in the Air Force, as one of the first females to work on the KC-135 at KI Sawyer Air Force Base in upper Michigan. She served a total of eight years, doing two stints from October 1974 to September 1978, and from October 1980 to September 1984.
“When I came back in 1980 I had to get a top-secret clearance. My job was working in a vault typing up pilot flight plans,” said Manley, whose rank was staff sergeant.
She and the other women were pioneers.
“I loved my job. The pilots were so nice. It was me and another girl, and the men didn’t know how to handle us. Now it’s different of course with women in the military,” Manley said.
Manley could have had a career in the military, but instead chose being a mother.
“I had three kids while I served, the youngest was six months old. I didn’t want to be away from my family.”
Military service runs in her family as her father served in the United States Marine Corps.
“When I was 17 at Detroit Pershing High School I told my dad I wanted to join the Air Force. He was proud of me and supportive,” Manley said.
Anible, 64, served in the Air Force in the 1970s as a nurse. Her rank was first lieutenant.
Some 40 years later she was given the opportunity to take the Honor Flight.
“I was just blown away … so surprised,” she said.
“The number of people who were there to greet us made you teary-eyed. It was tremendously emotional,” Anible said.
Having family members present last Saturday made the experience even richer.
“My 4-year-0ld granddaughter was there; being so excited seeing me get off the plane. I felt really blessed,” she said.
Anible met her husband, Russ, while stationed in San Antonio. “I was from Iowa; he’s from Michigan and we met in Texas.”
She also felt a strong bond with other women who served.
“They talk about a brotherhood, which came out of World War II. I felt like our country needed our skills at that time, and we have a strong sense of sisterhood,” Anible said.
Barkley was in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. She turns 96 this month.
Eshelman, who will be 93 in November, served in the U.S. Navy.
Anthony Conchel can be reached at 740-413-0900.