Persian Gulf War, 1991
15th Evacuation Hospital
Fort Dix, New Jersey; San Antonio, Texas; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Saudi Arabia
In 1989, Wendy Wamsley was a troubled 17-year-old high school student with bad grades and an attitude to match. When her policeman father informed her she was joining the Army—or she was moving out of the house—she agreed to enlist. What she couldn’t have anticipated was a tour of duty as a medic during the Persian Gulf War, an experience which definitely provided her with an attitude adjustment.
We honor you, Wendy Wamsley Taines.
Rhonda Cornum embarked on a combat search and rescue mission the morning of 27 February 1991 to recover an Air Force pilot shot down over Iraq during Desert Storm. Tragically, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was aboard crashed as a result of Iraqi anti-aircraft fire. One of only three survivors from the eight-member crew, Major Cornum was captured and taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard. Suffering two broken arms, a severely damaged leg, and gunshot and shrapnel wounds in her shoulder and head, she survived imprisonment behind Iraqi enemy lines. An Army flight surgeon, wife, and mother, she was repatriated on 6 March 1991 as one of only two women POWs from the Gulf war. Although U.S. law prohibited women from serving in combat roles, her experiences and open dialogue as a POW helped pave the way for continued Congressional expansion of military women in combat roles.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, now Brigadier General Cornum started her military career in 1978 as an Army medical researcher. She completed medical school at the Uniformed Services University in 1986, and was quickly drawn to the combat field and aerospace medicine arenas. Her love of flight grew as she completed airborne, air assault and flight surgeon training. Her medical aviation research enhanced use of helmet mounted displays in advanced attack helicopters and in pilot performance. She and her husband, Air Force Brigadier General (Dr.) Kory Cornum, also built their own experimental aircraft by hand. After repatriation, Major Cornum became the first medical officer to graduate from Air Command and Staff College. She continued medical training and research in the field of urology, commanded the 28th Combat Support Hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and deployed as the Medical Task Force commander to Bosnia. She was also the first female commander of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, leading medical treatment for over 26,000 injured veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. General Cornum’s career culminated in founding and leading the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Center. The Center develops psychological strengthening and resilience training to aid military members in surviving difficult, even life-threatening, situations. Awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Medal, POW Medal and others for her service, recently-retired General Cornum splits her time between a 700 acre family farm in Kentucky, and Biloxi, Mississippi, where her husband serves as the medical center commander.
We honor you, Rhonda Cornum.
Maj. Alexander C. Furla served in the U.S. Air Force (active duty 1985-1996, reserve 1996-2006) as an aeromedical evacuation operations officer during the Panama (Just Cause), Persian Gulf (Desert Shield/Storm) and Somalia (Restore Hope) campaigns, having been awarded 13 military service decorations, ribbons and numerous letters of commendation. He also served with the first team to stand up the HQ AMC Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC) Aeromedical Evacuation from April 1992 to 1996, and with the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing, 57th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 7276th Air Base Group, and 90th Strategic Missile Wing. Major commands included the Strategic Air Command (SAC), U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), Military Airlift Command (MAC), Air Mobility Command (AMC) and Air Force Reserve Command (AFRES).
We honor you, Alexander Furla.
Major General Dee Ann McWilliams, USA, Retired, took the helm as president of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation on January 1, 2016. Serving 29 years with the United States Army, MG McWilliams held a variety of Human Relations positions, including command of four companies, a training battalion, and a personnel brigade. She also taught national strategic studies and leadership, and served as an Equal Opportunity Officer. As Director, Military Personnel Management for Department of the Army, MG McWilliams developed policy and strategy for staffing, salary compensation, and training for over 1 million soldiers, to include recruitment of more than 100,000 annually. She also served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel and Installation Management in Europe where she provided human resource and quality of life support to soldiers in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia, Greece, and Egypt. MG McWilliams retired from the Army in 2003 and later joined the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She retired in 2010 as Director of the Lessons Learned Center. MG McWilliams holds degrees from Lon Morris College, Stephen F. Austin University where she was named a distinguished alumnus, Texas Woman’s University, and the National War College. She serves on the advisory boards of the Army Historical Foundation and the Army Women’s Foundation where she previously served as President. In 2007, MG McWilliams joined the board of directors for the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, assuming the position of Vice Chair in 2014. She was the 2013 recipient of the Lillian K. Keil Award for outstanding contributions to women’s service in the United States military and was named a Trailblazer by Women Veterans Interactive.
We honor you, Dee Ann McWilliams.
(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson)
Like many Baby Boomers, Jayne Cooley had a father who served in World War II, but she had no designs on a career in the military. However, in 1978, a friend persuaded her to join the Army Reserves for a chance to supplement her income as a private duty nurse. Twelve years later, Cooley was called up to serve in the Persian Gulf War. She worked in the operating room of a 400-bed hospital that was 10 miles from the front lines, treating American GIs and Iraqi POWs alike. The Army made sure that its women and men were treated exactly the same, but things were different when Cooley went off base and had to deal with traditional Arab views of women.
We honor you, Jayne Cooley.
(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)
Leonardo Lucio was born September 11, 1972 in Chicago Heights, Illinois. His family had a history of working with the railroad: his father worked for the Union Pacific Railroad, and his grandfather and younger brothers also both worked for the railroad. Coming from a big family—his father was the oldest of 13 kids; his mother the youngest of 8— Mr. Lucio remembers fondly his father taking him and his siblings to Mexico every couple of years to get to know their extended family and to learn the language—and these visits may be one reason Mr. Lucio had learned to love to travel. Mr. Lucio attended Bloom High School, where he participated in tennis, swimming, and was a member of the Glee club. Because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after he graduated, he listened to the different military recruiters that came to his school, only to find that the Navy offered him something he really wanted. “Key word: Travel. That’s what I wanted to do; I wanted to see the world.” Identifying a career path was something else Mr. Lucio remembers about his recruiting experience: he didn’t really know what he wanted to do in the Navy.
Because he didn’t know anyone in the service prior to joining, he didn’t have any previous exposure to military occupations. As a result, he signed up to be a deck seaman. After basic training, Mr. Lucio went straight to his first ship the USS Oldendorf (DD-972) as an undesignated seaman—only to find himself being sent to the middle of a war zone. The USS Oldendorf, home ported in Yokosuka, Japan was forward deployed as part of the Midway Battle Group in preparation for Operation Desert Storm. Mr. Lucio recalls patrolling the waters of the Persian Gulf with the Midway Battle Group. “It was in the height of the war so when the Iraqis were burning the Kuwaiti oil fields we could see the oil fields burning. We could smell it. We could see it in the water. We were that close.” As an 18 year-old deck seaman he remembers his thinking at the time: “…I do not want to be here and I do not believe in war. But I had no choice. I signed up. I raised my hand and I had to fulfil my duty.” It wasn’t until later in his tour onboard the Oldendorf that Leo was allowed to “strike” for a rating outside of the arduous deck department. As a deck seaman in 1st division he was exposed to various jobs in the Navy and he got lucky in discovering the rate of Postal Clerk. It was in this rate where Mr. Lucio found his calling in the Navy.
Today Mr. Lucio is part of the Navy Funeral Honor Guard, after Congress passed legislation providing every U.S. military veteran the ability to receive a funeral with military honors in 1999. Mr. Lucio performs 3 to 4 funerals per week on average. Over the last 14 years he has performed close to 2,000 funerals with honors. He loves doing it and considers it not only a part of his naval career, but part of who he is – it has been a truly rewarding experience.
We honor you, Leonardo Lucio.