It was going to be a busy day for Alma. She was headed to the Lockbourne Army Air Base* in Lockbourne, Ohio. The military hospital there was training a new group of Gray Ladies, and she had been accepted into the class. During the last class she’d learned about hospital organization; today’s class would be about ethics. She would also be learning about the ways recovering soldiers used occupational therapy to return to everyday activities.
Alma was both proud and anxious that Lockbourne Army Air Base, so important in the war effort, was so close to her home in Columbus. From being on the base, she’d learned some of its history. It had started out as the Northwest Training Center of the Army Air Corps and re-named in 1942. Now it was a hub of frenetic activity supporting the war effort.
Alma was especially proud that the Tuskegee Airmen’s 477th Composite Group was based at Lockbourne. Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr. and Major Vance H. Marchbanks had visited Lockbourne to meet with Mrs. James A. Madison to talk about the Gray Ladies. Although Alma’s first priority was to do whatever was needed at the hospital, she couldn’t help hoping that she would be introduced to one of the airmen.
It was exciting to realize that all of this was happening so close to home. The Tuskegee Airmen were making history as the first African-American military pilots. Lockbourne Army Air Base was supporting the Allied struggle against the Axis powers. And she, Alma, an orphan from the west side of Columbus, as a Gray Lady at Lockbourne, had her own small part in all of it!
*The name of the air base and its uses have changed several times. It is currently Rickenbacker International Airport.
Service to the U.S. military is written into the American Red Cross’s Congressional Charter. Although the Gray Ladies were subsumed into the general Red Cross volunteer program, volunteers continue to serve members of the military through its Services to the Armed Forces department. Services to the Armed Forces offers pre- and post-deployment programs to members of the military and their families, as well as being a vehicle of communication between service personnel and their families at times of family emergency. To become a Red Cross volunteer, go to http://redcross.orgvolunteer.