Speaking with Kansas veterans creates a feeling of humility and pride in being an American.
Meet Staff Sergeant Katie Conkling.
A member of the Women’s Army Corps stationed at Hickam Field Hawaii, she vividly remembers caring for our wounded soldiers and the day the Japanese surrendered.
“I just do things. I just know what I’m gonna do, and I just go do it,” explains Katie Conkling.
That was how she described deciding to join the military.
A 1939 graduate of East High School in Wichita, she was looking for work in Wisconsin at the time and saw this ad in the paper.
She was sworn in September 18, 1942 just nine months after Pearl Harbor.
Her job was classified an administrative specialist in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps that would become the Women’s Army Corps.
She was assigned to the Air Transport Command Pacific at Hickam Field Hawaii and remembers stepping in to help wherever she was needed.
“We would feed the patients, wash their face and hands, ask them if they wanted to send a message home or something why we did that,” remembers Katie.
Many times that meant going beyond the duties of her job description.
“One of the burn patients I had said ‘I would like to taste a real orange again,'” says Katie. “And so I asked the nurse and she said, ‘If he can manage, he can have it.’ So I would peel it and break it up and feed it through his lips.”
She saw the flares shot off at Pearl Harbor September 2, 1945 celebrating the war was over.
After the war, Katie worked for an attorney, a Wisconsin congressman, the IRS and the Social Security Administration.
She got married to a B-26 pilot and had two children.
She herself became a pilot, a braille transcriber and later in life a bee keeper.
Looking back on her 97 years, Katie says her time in the military was a good foundation and thinks everyone should experience it.
“It’ll bring out something in them because they have the chance to do something. You are part of a group. Work as a group. You can do that. You can,” assures Katie.
It’s hard to believe Katie is 97.
She’s doing so well her doctors say she doesn’t even qualify for a handicap parking pass.
As she put it, she parks all the way out there and walks!