Four Native American Catholic Sisters from Fort Berthold, South Dakota worked as nurses for the War Department during the Spanish American War (1898). Originally assigned to the military hospital at Jacksonville, Florida, the nurses were soon transferred to Havana, Cuba. One of the nurses, Sister Anthony died of disease in Cuba and was buried with military honors.
Mrs. Cora E. Sinnard, a member of the Oneida Tribe and a graduate of the Episcopalian School of Nursing in Philadelphia, served eighteen months in France with a hospital unit provided by the Episcopal Church.
Charlotte Edith (Anderson) Monture of the Iroquois Nation also served as an Army nurse in France. Charlotte was born in 1890 in Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada. In 1917, she left her job as an elementary school nurse to join the Army Nurse Corps. She later referred to her service in France at a military hospital as "the adventure of a lifetime." Charlotte passed away in 1996, at the age of 106.
Nearly 800 Native American women served in the military during World War II. Elva (Tapedo) Wale, a Kiowa, left her Oklahoma reservation to join the Women's Army Corps. Private Tapedo became an "Air WAC," and worked on Army Air Bases across the United States. Corporal Bernice (Firstshoot) Bailey of Lodge Pole, Montana, joined the Women's Army Corps in 1945 and served until 1948. After the war, she was sent to Wiesbaden, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation. Beatrice (Coffey) Thayer also served in the Army of Occupation in Germany. Beatrice remembers being assigned to KP with German POWs, who were accompanied by armed guards. Beatrice was in Germany when the Berlin Wall went up, and remained in the Army until the 1970s.
Private Minnie Spotted-Wolf of Heart Butte, Montana, enlisted in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in July 1943. She was the first female American Indian to enroll in the Corps. Minnie had worked on her father's ranch doing such chores as cutting fence posts, driving a two-ton truck, and breaking horses. Her comment on Marine boot camp "Hard but not too hard."
Ola Mildred Rexroat, an Oglala Sioux from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, joined the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) directly out of high school. Her job was to tow targets for aerial gunnery students at Eagle Pass Army Air Base in Texas. Towing targets for student gunners was a fairly dangerous assignment, but "Rexy" was happy to be able to contribute to the war effort in a meaningful way. After the war ended, Ola joined the Air Force and served for almost ten years.
Sarah Mae Peshlakai, a member of the Navajo Tribe from Crystal, New Mexico, enlisted in the Women's Army Corps in 1951 and served until 1957. Peshlakai trained as a medical specialist and was assigned to Yokohama Army Hospital in Japan, where she helped care for casualties from the Korean battlefields.
Linda Woods enlisted in the Air Force in the late 1950s and was on duty when President Kennedy was assassinated. She remembers that the air base where she was stationed went on full alert. A later assignment took her to the southern United States during the Civil Rights movement. As a non-white, she found the environment somewhat difficult, however, she retained pride in her uniform as a woman of color.
Barbara Monteiro joined the WAC in 1963 and took her basic and secretarial training at Ft. McClellan. Alabama. Her first duty assignment was to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, where she worked for three years in the travel office and motor pool in support of troop readiness during the Vietnam War. In 1966, Monteiro was assigned to Ft. Richardson, Alaska, where she served as an administration specialist at the Education Center for a year. Lance Corporal Valla Dee Jack Egge of Dougherty, Oklahoma, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the early 1960s as the executive secretary to two commanding generals of the Parris Island Marine Corps Base, South Carolina.
Patricia White Bear joined the Navy in 1981. She trained as an instrumentman and served at sea repairing, adjusting and calibrating the wide variety of mechanical measuring instruments used aboard ships. Dolores Kathleen Smith, a Cherokee, graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982. She completed navigator training and was assigned to a KC-135 unit. She served in the operational plans division of her unit and also as an instructor before retiring as a captain from the Air Force in 1990.