A local Korean War veteran travelled in July with a group from around the country, to visit the memorial for that war, in Washington, D.C.

Phyllis Carper, of New Llano, was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army from 1950-1954. She was a 1st Lieutenant, and a nurse, during her service.

Twenty-three veterans shared the flight to D.C., but Carper was the only woman and the only officer. “They had been drafted when they were teenagers. I enlisted when I was 25-years-old. So, that meant I was the oldest on the flight as well,” she said.

 Carper’s visit to the Korean War Memorial was an emotional one. “There was a film crew from California there to take pictures of the whole tour,” said Carper. “The minute I walked into the area where they had the statues, I started to cry because it brought back so many memories. They had a granite wall with all these very faint pictures of everyone that served over there. I saw my picture on the wall.”

 Carper felt honored as people thanked her for her service. “It felt wonderful to be thanked, because there was a time in our history when soldiers came home they were spit on, disrespected, and made to feel unwelcome,” she said.

The group also visited the Women’s Memorial. There, they were greeted by U.S. Marines. “Here come these two female Marines who wanted to take their picture with me. I was so moved that I started crying again,” said Carper.

Prior to joining the military, Carper contributed to the war effort during World War II. “I graduated high school in 1943. I was 16. A lot of the boys in my high school class had went off to war and had been killed very quickly,” she said. “I wanted to help, so I went to work for a factory that developed Norden bombsights.”

On her first day on the job, she was asked if she was sure she wanted to do that kind of work. “I said yes, and they put me on the rivet machine. Soon after that I started welding in the shop as well.” Carper welded copper boxes which were used on the Noren bombsights. These assisted in fog and some daytime attacks, she explained.

Through the Nurse Cadet Corp program, Phyllis commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the Army in 1950. She worked as a nurse in an Army hospital in San Francisco for a brief stint, until the Korean War escalated and she was needed overseas.

“There were twenty nurses picked out to go on this flight,” said Carper. “They dropped us off on Midway Island, which is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There is nothing there but palm trees and heat. The problem was we were dressed for the cold weather in Korea.”

After spending the night on Midway Island, Carper was transported to a hospital about 30 miles north of Tokyo, where she worked as a triage nurse for three years. “The wounded would come in on large planes at night, so we slept in the daytime and at night we would tend to the patients and get them ready to send back to the Army hospital in San Francisco,” she said. “It tore me up inside to see these young men wounded the way they were. However, no matter what, you always tell them that they’re going to make it. You have to tell them to not give up.”

Carper believes that young women of today should feel no restraint if they want to join the military. “Do it. Don’t let anyone hold you back. Get out of your comfort zone. I saw Japan and Europe. I met my husband in the service. It was the greatest adventure of my life,” she said.

Carper met her husband, Robert R. Carper in Japan. “I met my husband while we were working at a hospital in Sapporo. We got married in September of 1953. Unfortunately, two weeks later he was sent back to the U.S., while I had to stay in Japan for another year.”

She and her husband were married for 60 years, until Robert died in 2013.