[Beginning of OH02172.Armstrong_OHMSaudio]
SPRAGUE: Today is September 24, 2019, this is an interview with VioletArmstrong, who served in the United States Air Force Reserve from 1974 and retired in 1995, who also served during Operation Desert Shield--Desert Storm--and was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas during that time. This interview is being conducted by Luke Sprague at the Capitol Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library in Madison, Wisconsin--sorry, Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the I Am Not Visible Project of the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum Oral History Program. No one else is in the room. Okay, Violet, when and about where were you born?
ARMSTRONG: I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, not far from this building.
SPRAGUE: Okay. If I can get you--yep, there you go. And tell me about your--ah,00:01:00tell me a little bit about where you grew up, if would be so kind.
ARMSTRONG: I grew up on Tenth and Walnut, here in Milwaukee. I came from a verymixed, friendly neighborhood. I think I had one of the best childhoods that anyone could ask for. Played with the neighbor kids, went to school with the neighbor kids, and both my parents were very strict. There was nine children, but our whole neighborhood was a family.
SPRAGUE: Mm. What else can you share with me about your parents?
ARMSTRONG: Well, my father worked as a laborer for what was called back then a00:02:00junkyard. My mom was a part-time beautician and a seamstress, and very, very involved in the church. And every Sunday, if the weather permitted, we walked to the lagoon and fished. Then, we came home and ate the fish.
SPRAGUE: What kind of fish were they?
ARMSTRONG: At the time, I didn't know. As I grew older, I found out they werecarp and perch. And whatever we caught, we ate.
SPRAGUE: You said in your pre-interview that you had kind of a tough upbringing.What could you tell me about that?
ARMSTRONG: After I got to be, ah--I shouldn't say a teenager. When we moved awayfrom Tenth and Walnut--and Galena--I went into Catholic school. There was a lot 00:03:00of bullying in school and, so I kind of had to fight my way through school. I never thought I'd be a genius, but I tried to do the best I could, because my parents expected it. But at that time, the world was starting to change for me. And it got kind of rough. Fighting, name calling, chasing home. But I still look back and I survived. It's not like the world it is now. So, I say I had a decent upbringing.
SPRAGUE: And what schools did you go to?
ARMSTRONG: Well, I went Ninth Street School first, then I went St. Benedict the00:04:00Moor. Then, from St. Benedict the Moor, I went to St. Boniface, then I went to North Division High School, and then West Division was my last school. I did not graduate from West Division, but I eventually got my GED, and I went to college a little bit.
SPRAGUE: Mhmm. You also mentioned in your pre-interview, you talked about peoplewho helped you along the way.
ARMSTRONG: I think I had a very good support system. My neighbors--at that time,the neighbors could discipline you, same way your parents could. So, you didn't too much step out of line. I was a tree climber, I was a baseball player, I was 00:05:00a football player, I was fence jumper, I was a tomboy. And my brother taught us to be--the girls to be strong and a tomboy. And that's the way we were. And to this very day, the neighbors that I grew up with are still my best friends. And that's been--I'm seventy-six now, and they're my age, and we still keep in contact. You know, one calls the other one, we'd go no matter what.
SPRAGUE: Okay. So, you're getting older, you're going through the school system.You mentioned in the earlier talk about your entering the military, and that was unique in some way? Tell me more. 00:06:00
ARMSTRONG: I was working for the Department of Public Welfare at the time, andtwo of the ladies there approached me and said, "Violet! We're going into the Reserves, you wanna go?" And my brothers were Air Force. And I went and asked my mother, would she help me take care of the kids while I was at basic training. So, I went into the Reserves. At the time, they left before me, because I was three pounds overweight. So, I had to wait two weeks to go in, so I went in behind them. And... I was just trying to follow my brothers and do something different. And when I scored high on the test, I got in. And off to basic training I went. That was an eye-opener, because I was thirty-one years old 00:07:00[background noise]. So, I got the three pounds off and I went.
SPRAGUE: What did your family say to you at the time about your joining the military?
ARMSTRONG: My mother was pretty proud of me. She didn't want to babysit, but Itold her I would only be gone so long. And then, I got a niece and a sister to move into my home to take care of my children. My ex-husband was there to help, also. So, I had that support.
SPRAGUE: So, tell me also about your other--your brothers and other familymembers who served.
ARMSTRONG: I had three brothers. Two were in the Air Force, one was wounded inKorea in the Army. And when I went into the Air Force, my brothers were very 00:08:00proud of me. I was proud of myself. I didn't get to stay very long, because my one brother got sick and they sent me home, and I got home the day before he died. And thank you to the Red Cross, 'cause they got me home to see him before he died. And that kind of sealed my future for the military. I was getting out and a gentleman asked me, would I stay. And I told him, "As long as I didn't have to leave Milwaukee." And they tore up my papers for me to leave, they swore me back in, and I went into the Comm Center at the 440th.
SPRAGUE: Okay, so, this would be--this would be after you came back from basic00:09:00or--? Straighten me out on that.
ARMSTRONG: I was in--I finished basic training and I went to tech school down atSheppard Air Force Base, and I came out that Friday evening, and the security police was waiting for me. They sent me upstairs, got me a couple pieces of clothes, and told me I had an emergency at home. I thought it was my children. But they got me here in Milwaukee the next day. I got here on a Saturday; my brother died on Sunday.
SPRAGUE: So, backing up just a little bit, what can you tell me about yourexperience at basic training?
ARMSTRONG: [Laughs] Basic training was a real eye-opener for someone thirty-oneyears old. Number one, as Sergeant Bell told me, I had to be reeducated. Because 00:10:00I was set in my ways, and they had to take me all the way back to childhood and bring me back up to adulthood. And she did a fantastic job. The reason I thought she did a fantastic job was simply because, I felt that every word that came out of her mouth was one less word I would have to listen [both laugh]. And every day that I woke up, there was one less day that I would be there. So, I just did the best that I could. I think the worst part of basic training was getting up in the morning--I know this don't sound well, but getting up in the morning, going into the ladies' room, brushing your teeth, putting the toothpaste and the toothbrush down your bra and running down the steps. Because you didn't have time to get any water and clean that stuff up. So, I taught a few other girls 00:11:00how to do it, we'd grab some water at the drinking fountain on the way out the door. And we went on down the steps and there we were.
SPRAGUE: So, you were in such a rush to make formation that--?
ARMSTRONG: You had to make that bed--well, we learned not to sleep under thecovers, of course. And everything that we needed was laying right next to us in the bed. So, when you got up out the bed, you took it with you as you went. And after she yelled at us a couple times, I got used to it. Some parts were funny and some parts were not. But I thought she did a fantastic job. 00:12:00
SPRAGUE: So, was it just that one female drill sergeant? Or were there otherdrill sergeants as well?
ARMSTRONG: In our fourth week, they let a male come into the barracks, becauseat that time it was a separate situation. Females could have nothing to do with males at all. Nothing. And when they brought this gentleman in to take her place some evenings, he had to knock on the door to get in--number one--and then he had to stay in a certain area. You know, just in case some of the girls were in positions where they didn't need to be seen. And he did a good job.
SPRAGUE: Mhmm. How was--were they--was it one women--one platoon of women, or a00:13:00company? Or was it exclusively women? Or were there other platoons of men in the same company?
ARMSTRONG: All women.
SPRAGUE: All women.
ARMSTRONG: All women, no men, nowhere. The only time we saw men is if wehappened to be marching down the street and they were on the other side of the street. They did not do physical fitness with us, they did nothing with us at all. It was not allowed.
SPRAGUE: Do you happen to remember the name of that unit? Nah?
ARMSTRONG: I don't think so.
SPRAGUE: Okay. That's all right if you don't have it. That's fine.
ARMSTRONG: I should! After everything I went through. No, I don't remember it.
SPRAGUE: Okay. So, you get done with basic, and then you go on to further00:14:00training. Tell me about that.
SPRAGUE: Or did you come back?
ARMSTRONG: --I went to Sheppard Air Force Base [clears throat], my AFSC wascommunications, so they were teaching me how to run a Comm Center, and I was only there a little while. And then I had to leave.
SPRAGUE: For the listener, can you tell them what an AFSC is?
ARMSTRONG: That's a career field.
ARMSTRONG: Each career field has a number. And the letters. And you chose thatwhen you enlisted. My brother was Comm Center, I wanted to be Comm Center. And so, my test scores were good enough for me to go into Comm Center. 00:15:00
SPRAGUE: Mmhm. And what was that--AF--was it AFC?
SPRAGUE: AFSC, sorry.
SPRAGUE: AFF--C. A--A-F-S-C.
ARMSTRONG: F-C, yes.
SPRAGUE: Do you happen to remember what that was? For comms?
ARMSTRONG: What the initials meant?
SPRAGUE: Yeah, in the Air Force.
ARMSTRONG: No, I don't, come to think of it. Air Force...At the moment I don'tremember it.
SPRAGUE: That's all right.
ARMSTRONG: Maybe as I go through this I'll remember.
SPRAGUE: That's okay. I'm just curious, why did you pick comms?
ARMSTRONG: Like I said, my brother was in Comm Center, communications, and heused to tell us what he did in communications. And at that time, it was a bunch of little cards with little holes in 'em, and you had to learn to decipher those holes into words. And so, you'd hold it up to the light, and you would read it. 00:16:00And then you would write down into a machine what those little bitty holes meant, and push a button, and they would go to another Comm Center. We were in a room. A small room, one window--that was our only light from the outside. And we would learn how to decipher all the little cards that came through. I didn't get far at Sheppard Air Force Base, but I did get far at the 440th.
SPRAGUE: Mmhm. So, I understand they're completely--were they--they were punchcards? And then you had to read them manually? Or were they called something else? 00:17:00
ARMSTRONG: They were little--they looked like a card that you'd send through themail to someone.
ARMSTRONG: And it would come through a machine and it would be stacked in frontof you. And you picked up each one, and you'd hold it up to the light, and you would decipher what all those little, tiny holes meant. You would put that down, write it out--or should I say type it out. Then, you'd pick up the next one, type it out, and sometimes there'd be fifty or sixty little cards, and you didn't have time to figure out what the message was. All you had to do was interpret it, type it in, and push a button, and it went somewhere else. And we never knew where it went, because that was not our job. But it was top secret, I 00:18:00had to have a top-secret clearance, and that was interesting.
SPRAGUE: Tell me more about that.
ARMSTRONG: They interviewed my relatives down in Illinois, they interviewed tworelatives in Mississippi, they interviewed everyone in my family to make sure that my background was clean. And then, I was working for a stockbroking company at the time, on Wisconsin Avenue, and one day--I thought they were detectives. They came into my office and they said they wanted to see me. I guess they'd already arranged it with my boss. They took me across the street, and their office could look right into my office! Across the street on Wisconsin Avenue. 00:20:0000:19:00There was two desks and three chairs, that was all that was in that room. And they asked me questions, and I answered 'em, and their main questions was whether--about a gentleman I was dating at the time. And it lasted about an hour, and then they sent me back to work! And I'm like, "Okay, what is this?" And when I went out to the base, they told me, "Oh, they were clearing you for your top-secret clearance"--'cause I already had a secret and I needed top secret.
ARMSTRONG: And I got my top-secret clearance.
SPRAGUE: Do you by chance happen to remember the name of that card system? Whatthe Air Force called it?
ARMSTRONG: [sighs] No, I don't.
SPRAGUE: That's all right. That's okay. I was just curious if you happened to remember.
ARMSTRONG: No, I'm thinkin'... I don't remember what the cards--they weren'tcables. It's somewhere in my house, I have it.
SPRAGUE: Okay. So, moving ahead, you get the Red Cross notice, you come back toWisconsin, and you reenlist, but you reenlist as a Reservist with the 440th?
SPRAGUE: And that is, at the time, an Airlift Wing, or Air Wing?
ARMSTRONG: Airlift Wing.
SPRAGUE: Airlift Wing?
ARMSTRONG: Actually, I stayed with the 440th for over six months, and theyreleased me from active duty in '75.
ARMSTRONG: So, that's how I got my Vietnam status.00:21:00
ARMSTRONG: Because I was out there every day. I didn't--I wasn't on orders forReservist at the time. When Mr. Bates offered me the position, it was an active-duty position, and so I stayed until I completed my active-duty position. And then they released me after six months to go into Reserve status. Someone said, "Aren't you supposed to be Reservist?" And I said, "Not now." That changed real fast.
SPRAGUE: [Chuckles] So, for the listener, Violet has shown me her statement ofservice and when she was released from active duty in... What date in '75? Does it say? It looks like. 00:22:00
ARMSTRONG: Let's see--August, September, October, November, December, January, February--yeah.
SPRAGUE: Twenty-fourth February, 1975. And do you happen to remember Mr. Bates'name, by chance?
ARMSTRONG: Well, that was his--that was the name we called him.
SPRAGUE: Called him Mister.
ARMSTRONG: Yeah, Mister.
SPRAGUE: Was he a civilian?
ARMSTRONG: Yes, he was.
SPRAGUE: Okay. That makes sense. So, within the 440th--and you'll have toforgive, 'cause I'm from the Army--what--was there a particular--when you were on active duty, was there a particular squadron or group you fell within that? Or how does that work?
ARMSTRONG: Well, with the 440th, it was [inaudible] 440th Airlift Wing.
SPRAGUE: Okay. And that was the same AFSC as before. You were still in Comms? Or different--?
ARMSTRONG: No, I left Comm Center and I became what is called a 702, which is an00:23:00office worker. And they immediately shipped me to the Dining Hall. Because I also had a background in civilian life as a restaurant owner, and a bar owner. And so, they figured I could work in the Dining Hall. And I worked in the Dining Hall on a typewriter, at the time, because computers had not come out then. And, I typed up their orders and--for food and--people's shift and whatever else they needed me to type up. Their finances. And that's how I started learning. 00:24:00
SPRAGUE: So, tell me about the transition from comms to office worker. And tellme about that.
ARMSTRONG: Well, it wasn't hard for me. It was different, but it wasn't hard,because--and I'm not bragging, but--it was an easy transition. They told me to do this, and I did this. It was like basic training. They tell you to walk, you walk. You run, you run. All I had to do [clears throat] was learn their way--because like I said, I owned a restaurant and stuff, so food service came easy for me. I just had to learn the military technique.
SPRAGUE: So, was that something that you wanted to do? Or you didn't have achoice about, or--?
ARMSTRONG: I really didn't have a choice. I was told I was going to be a 702,00:25:00and that's an administrative clerk. And they assigned me to the Dining Hall. It turned out to be okay... The boss that I had, I don't remember his name--Cummings? No, that's not his name. He gave me some advice and I, to this day, remember that advice. And I still use it. "Learn all you can. Take every test you can take [clattering noise]. If you have the knowledge and the test, you can move up the ladder." And that is what I did. That's how I got as far as 00:26:00I got. I'll never forget him telling me that. He was a Deputy Sheriff in Sheboygan, and he said that's how he went through life [clattering noise]. And he took me aside and told me what to do and how to do it, and I did it. And that's where my troubles started [both laugh].
SPRAGUE: Well, tell me about that.
ARMSTRONG: Well, I don't know what it's like in the Army, and I'm quite sureit's the same as it is in the Air Force. To me--and this is to me--women are an inferior person. We're good for fetching coffee, we're good for taking notes, 00:27:00we're good for... whatever someone else does not want to do. And I just wasn't that type of person. So, with me not being that type of person, there was criticism. And on several occasions, it tried to bring me down. [clattering noise] But I was lucky. I was not nineteen or eighteen, and I was not afraid like I'm seeing young girls now. My brother was a Golden Glove boxing champion. He used to hit us in the chest, tschoo-tschoo, and he would make us strong--the 00:28:00girls [clattering noise]. And I took that with me to the military. And I also have a mouth [clears throat] that kind of takes up for myself. So, I was able to let them know that I was not the kid to play with. Some of 'em excepted it, a lot of 'em didn't. But it got me through. And I'm the same way now [laughs softly].
SPRAGUE: So, you mentioned in the pre-interview--you talked about ServicesSuperintendent while you were stationed in Arkansas, which would be forward of 00:29:00that. But can you bring me through coming back to Milwaukee, working in the--what'd it be, the Dining Hall?
ARMSTRONG: Dining Facilities.
SPRAGUE: Dining Facility. And tell me about your service there and bring meforward to--all the way forward to 1991, 1990.
ARMSTRONG: Mmkay. When I left Milwaukee, I was the Services Superintendent,because of a mishap with the other gentleman who ran the Dining Hall. You can't mention names, or anything like that, but unfortunately, they removed six gentlemen from their positions, and gave it to me. So, I was doing the work of six gentlemen. I was sleeping on the floor, I was taking a shower in the--where 00:30:00you wash the mops out and stuff. I was bringing my son there with me, and I was taking care of the General's daughter, also. 'Cause he had no babysitter. So, I was doing all of that. And when they needed someone to go to Little Rock Air Force Base--that was not our first destination. We thought we were going overseas. And then, they made a switch and they sent Arkansas people overseas and they sent us there to take their place. I had twelve people with me. They had on camouflage uniforms, and I had on dress blues. Sergeant walked right past 00:31:00me and walked over to my--one of my people and put his hand out, to welcome him. And Don said, "I'm not in charge. Sergeant Armstrong is in charge." He turned around, he looked at me, he said, "Oh, I didn't see you." He never shook my hand... nothing. I knew then, that this was going to be an interesting tour. But my friends--all the people that were with me were volunteers. They offered to go with me. There was no forcing, no nothin'. They had my back. And believe me, they had my back. 00:32:00
When that Dining Hall closed down because there was some sleet, every one of myworkers showed up. They ran that Dining Hall twenty-four hours. When I was disciplined, they took up for me. But by that time, I had made friends with Little Rock cooks and service people, also. And they took up for me. I never once--never once--had disciplined or said anything to any of my people. The people I had problems out of were services people from Little Rock. The 00:33:00Sergeant--I stayed away from him as much as I could. Eventually, something happened, and he was removed. It had nothing to do with me, but he was caught doing somethin'. And another gentleman, he was removed because of the N-word. But I had heard it so much, that--y'know. But somebody else heard it also, that time, and they reported him. So, Little Rock was kind of a learning tool. And we were pulled out for a week and sent to Florida for an exercise that we had down 00:34:00there. And we came back. I stayed to the end--as a matter of fact, they extended our tour of duty. We were only supposed to be there for three months and they extended it. And while I was down there, I won two awards... So--
SPRAGUE: And what were those awards?
ARMSTRONG: One of them was for Outstanding Service. And...I just saw the otherone yesterday. Well, both them was--one is Over and Beyond and one was Outstanding Service, and I have both of 'em at home. I've got about eight awards [laughs].
SPRAGUE: Wow. So, can you tell me about what the discipline thing was about? Or00:35:00was that more related--was that more of a disagreement? What was that, where they disciplined you at--in Arkansas? Or was that--? Tell me about that.
ARMSTRONG: I did not pass my physical fitness test. I'm trying to think--I wasin my fifties--I had it in my fifties. And we were running through the woods, me and Don. Don was close to my age. And so, we were a couple of minutes late coming over the--the timeline. After chomping through the little woods--I'm a 00:36:00northerner. I had never lived in the South. All I knew about the South was they had snakes. And critters. So, Don and I are running over rocks and over the little valleys and over the little whatnots, and I'm more interested in looking than I'm interested in going ahead. And I think that's probably why--but when we got there, everybody said, "Yeah, you guys made it. Yeah, you guys made it." Sergeant said we didn't make it.
ARMSTRONG: So, I got this letter--
SPRAGUE: Oh, go ahead.
ARMSTRONG: And somehow the letter kind of disappeared out of my record [Spraguelaughs]. I don't know how. I didn't do it! 00:37:00
SPRAGUE: So, what you faced in Arkansas, where do you think that--where did thatcome from? Was it mostly local people? Was it--tell me more about that.
ARMSTRONG: It was the local people. The people that were already assigned there.They brought me in, I was the second rank for enlisted. The Sergeant, of course, was--had more rank than I did. The gentleman that they eventually kicked out had less rank than I did. They kind of resented their people bein' sent away and our people coming in. But that was not a decision that we made.
SPRAGUE: You--were you the only female in that unit? Or were there other females?00:38:00
ARMSTRONG: There was one more female. Cynthia Truesdale. And Cynthia Truesdale,to this very day, calls me and comes to Milwaukee to see me. She drives here and we have lunch, and we sit around and chitchat. Cynthia--you couldn't ask for a better worker. You could not ask for a better worker. I had [clears throat] some of the best people working for me. There was only a couple, only a couple that did not want me to have that position. I would cry, and I would go into the ladies--and like I said, I slept in my office and all that, so I always kept a 00:39:00uniform and everything--and makeup and everything I needed in the bathroom. I would cry and I would go in the bathroom, and I would get it out of my system, wash my face, redo my makeup, change my blouse if I needed to, and I would come back out. And one of the girls said, "Violet, the look on your face would part the Red Sea." They still tell me that. And I was handling. The Sergeant here in Milwaukee--some of the thoughts I had about him were not good at all. Not at all. He denied me promotion three times. He said I was not experienced enough--I'm doing the work of six people, but I'm not experienced? I'm sleeping 00:40:00on the floor; my kid is sleeping out there with me.
SPRAGUE: Yeah, tell me more about that. Because that's--that's interesting.
ARMSTRONG: I made tech in--I made tech in 1980...and I became a threat. So,almost everything I did, as far as he was concerned, was wrong. I didn't go to Honduras to escort some bodies back. I didn't have to go. I was told I didn't have to go. When they brought the body back--that's the only body they found. They found some shoes and stuff like that. I went over to the Captain's house 00:41:00and I slept on the floor at her house--she was pregnant. And she didn't want to be alone. So, I volunteered to go sleep at her house, until the funeral. 'Cause I was Mortuary Affairs and I was a friend. I was told I wasn't supposed to do that. Wait, hold on! I'm on my time.
SPRAGUE: Weren't you in the Reserves at that time?
ARMSTRONG: I was in the Reserves, but I wasn't on duty.
SPRAGUE: Yeah, you were off duty [clears throat].
ARMSTRONG: So, I was told I wasn't supposed to do that. And then the ChristmasTree thing, fiasco, came up. He jumped on me about that. The tiniest thing. The 00:42:00tiniest thing. And I didn't understand, because we were friends! I thought. And he did everything he could to bring me down. And I had a female commander--one of my commanders was a female--and I remember her standing there crying--Major Merks. And I knew I wasn't supposed to touch her, and I grabbed her arm and walked her into the bathroom. And I told her--I gave her my washcloth and I told her, "Don't you ever let me see you cry in front of these people again. Ever." "Well, he said--" I said, "I don't care what he said, Major Merks, you cannot 00:43:00let them see you cry. When you get rid of the cry, go in my office, go in the bathroom, go anywhere. And when you come out, have a new face." And she did that. And I took John--because that's who made her cry. I said, "Why did you do that?" "She's dating a General and she shouldn't even be in here." I said, "She's an officer, she'd date who she wants to date, as long as it's not effecting our work, I better not never, ever hear you talk to her like that again!" "Well, Violet--" I said, "My name is not Violet. My name is Sergeant Armstrong." And that's what happened with her. 00:44:00
She eventually left. She didn't leave right away, but she--eventually she left.Why are you so jealous because she's dating a General? He never interfered with anything she did. He interfered with me, in a positive way. But I didn't see him overstep to help her. So... And Colonel McCain, the guy that just called, they tried to treat him like he was--he was a Major when he came? I think he was a 00:45:00Major when he came. He was an ex-flyer. And some of the things they tried to do to him--I straightened that out real quick.
SPRAGUE: And why--what was that about? Why--why were they treating theMajor--oh, skin color. Mmhm.
ARMSTRONG: There was a lot of prejudice at the 440th, and Little Rock Air ForceBase, and a couple other bases that I went to. But being older, and coming from the background that I did--I came from a Jewish-Italian-Mexican-Black neighborhood. I ate every kind of food there was to eat, because if you're hungry you're going to eat it. And they were my parents. I could tell you their 00:46:00names right now, after all these years. So, some of this stuff that was thrown at me, I didn't understand. And as time went by, I realized it was jealousy! "How did she get that position? Who did she sleep with?" A guy told me, he said, "If you can sleep with a General, you can sleep with me, I'm a Captain." I'm like, "What did you just say to me?" And of course, that was a nice little fight. We did it in private. I remember having my legs rubbed up and down. I can remember a guy who reached over and grabbed him a handful. You know, those 00:47:00sticks that you shake and they light up? He broke it, rubbed it on his hands, and came up to me and put them on my butt. Then turned out the lights so my behind would glow in the dark. "You want to make rank? I can get you some rank." So, the last time that they denied me rank, I went to the office, I packed up my books, my everything, put it in boxes, drove to the front gate--they stopped me at the front gate. They made me walk back to Headquarters. I walked in, Beth was 00:48:00sitting at the desk--I think that was her name, Beth--I walk right past her, I walk to the General's door, I snatched it open, I said, "What?" And he started laughing. I says, "It's not funny." He said, "I heard they denied your promotion today, again." I said, "Yeah." I says, "And I'm leaving. I'm through." He said, "No, you're not. I overruled them." And I started crying again. So, for a whole day I walked around, Tech Sergeant stripes and Master Sergeant bars [chuckles]. And he said, "If anybody says anything, send them to me." And that's how I made Master.
SPRAGUE: So, that General promoted you on the spot? From Tech to Master Sergeant?00:49:00
ARMSTRONG: He was waiting for them. He knew they were going to deny me again,that Sergeant was going to deny me again. Three times. They brought people in--they brought men in from Chicago, they brought men in from Minnesota, and somewhere else, to take my job. They told me to train them. And I'm like, "Let me go look in the mirror, do I look that stupid?" So, the one guy, when I told him that we had to get him a cot to sleep on, because the Dining Hall opened at four in the morning, and the Club closed at midnight. So, I had Mortuary Affairs, I had the Dining Hall, I had Services, and I had--Services being 00:50:00hotels, motels, billeting--and I had the Club. So, I was overseeing all four of those.
SPRAGUE: That--forgive me, but that sounds like a lot for one NCO to handle--oneSergeant to handle. That's an extreme amount of duties. Now, this is was at the 440th? Okay, here in Milwaukee?
ARMSTRONG: If I hadn't had friends like Cynthia Truesdale, and Kathy Spabota[??], and--by the way, who made Chief, eventually she made Chief. I don't know what I would have done. And then, they brought Major Merks in, and then they brought Major McCain in. So, eventually, I had some backup for the last two years, or year, or whatever. But from the time that I made Tech--
SPRAGUE: Now, Tech Sergeant in the Air Force is... what rank or grade? What00:51:00grade? Sorry.
SPRAGUE: E5, okay.
ARMSTRONG: I made Tech January 1, 1980. From 1980 to 1985, I was denied. Right.And I had every test there was to take, plus some extras. Plus, I won awards even outside of the 440th for my handling of Services. But he said I was not experienced enough [clattering sound]. So, I was denied. So, the General finally had enough, and he knew they were going to deny me, and he stopped me at the gate and made me walk back. I was so mad, I was stomping. I had high-heeled 00:52:00shoes--I was stomping back there. And from that time on, he was not allowed to oversee my records, my anything. They assigned me to another Sergeant. And he said, and I quote--"If you'd have dated me like you dated Sergeant So-and-So, we wouldn't be having those problems" [laughs].
SPRAGUE: And this is in the Reserves. So, what were you doing in your--when youweren't serving? Or were you on active duty while--?
ARMSTRONG: Well, actually, when I came back from Little Rock Air Force Base, itwas a mess. So, they put me on five--every week, I worked five days a week. 00:53:00
SPRAGUE: But you're in Reserve status? But you're active--you're not on activeduty in the Reserves, but you're in true reserve status.
ARMSTRONG: I was on active duty. I was on orders.
SPRAGUE: Okay, my bad.
ARMSTRONG: I was on orders forever it seemed like--I was on orders. SometimesI'd come in for five days, sometimes I'd come in for seven days, sometimes I'd come in for three days. All depends on when they wanted me, you know?
ARMSTRONG: They'd just say, "Sergeant Armstrong, come in here." Like, "From thefifteenth to the nineteenth, from the eighth to the twelfth, from the twentieth to the twenty-fourth." You know, they just-- because we supported the flight 00:54:00crews and whatnot. So, they had to have somebody in there. And they found out that one of my best dishes from my restaurant was fried chicken. And so I would cook it [laughs] and make box lunches for the flight crew. And one day the General called downstairs, we had a different General then. He called downstairs and he says, "Sergeant Armstrong." And I said, "Yes, sir?" He said, "Why is it that there's a Lieutenant in my office eating some of the best fried chicken I've ever tasted in my life, and I don't have any?" I said, "Sir, I didn't know you liked fried chicken." He said, "Well, I do." I said, "Okay, I'll make you some and bring it up there." He said, "No, I'll come down and get it!" [Sprague laughs]. And we became friends [laughs]. We became friends over some fried 00:55:00chicken. But I would do whatever I had to do for those guys. They were flyers, they were out there risking their lives.
ARMSTRONG: If it meant me getting out of my bed at three o'clock in the morning,going out there to fix them some breakfast... I'd do it.
SPRAGUE: You mentioned in the pre-interview that you travelled a lot during thistime, or? Tell me about that a little.
ARMSTRONG: That was another benefit of the military. I got assigned for a monthin Okinawa, I got assigned for a while in Hon--wait, was it Honduras? Where does the ships go through? Um--
SPRAGUE: Panama Canal.
ARMSTRONG: Panama Canal. I was in Panama. Wherever they needed some help.00:56:00
SPRAGUE: I'm going to ask you about a couple of those. I might have some herefor you. So, do you remember--were you with the 440th in 1978? And resupplying the East Coast, because of the blizzards?
ARMSTRONG: I don't think so.
ARMSTRONG: I don't think so.
SPRAGUE: Mhm. Mmkay. Now, you mentioned Panama. Were you doing rotations down toPanama with your unit?
ARMSTRONG: Not really. I just went down there on a two week or three week,whatever it was, to help set up the Dining Hall down there. They had a new Dining Hall and I help set that up. 00:57:00
SPRAGUE: And what was that like in Panama?
ARMSTRONG: It was a little difficult. It was a little difficult because theywere starting out brand new. And the little time I was there, it was not enough time to really get all that organized. But, the people were willing and I had Linda with me--in Panama--yes, I had Linda with me... Oh, I can't remember the other girl's name. But anyway, there was about four of us, and we did what we had to do.
SPRAGUE: Do you remember where that was in Panama?
ARMSTRONG: [Exhales] It was at the base. What base was that? What base was that?00:58:00Oh, it won't be on here.
SPRAGUE: That's okay.
ARMSTRONG: I'm old.
SPRAGUE: Ah--nope, I understand [Armstrong laughs]. What did you do in your timeoff in Panama? What was that like? Did you get any time off when you were in Panama?
ARMSTRONG: Yeah, we did. The one thing that stands out to me in Panama was meand Linda and them went to town, and we were eating at McDonald's of all places. And there was babies--little bitty kids with their faces pressed against the window, watching us eat. And we went outside and these little kids--little bellies was--and their ribs was sunk in, the bellies were--
SPRAGUE: Bellies were distended.
ARMSTRONG: Yeah, and so we decided, yeah, let's go get them something to eat!So, we went and bought a ton of food and took it out there, and one little 00:59:00baby--one little baby could not eat as fast as it wanted to, so I was breaking off food and feeding it to that kid. And that kid was trying to gobble that food down. And we left the rest of it out there. We went back to the base and the next day, we got disciplined. We were not to feed the civilians, because they would expect it and they would pester other people to do it. I'm like, "This is my money! I can't spend my money the way I want to spend it?" Because I've always had this big mouth. And so, we promised that we wouldn't do it anymore. We did it anyway [chuckles]. 01:00:00
SPRAGUE: When you came back to the United States, what was that like after beingin Panama?
ARMSTRONG: I was grateful. Because after seeing that stuff in Panama--well, Ithink Panama might have been the one place where I saw poverty the way you don't see it in the United States. I'd never seen anyone sleeping up under a bridge here, or nothing. But down there... they barely had places to sleep, they barely had blankets to sleep under, they barely had this, they barely had that. Because we were--some of the places we went were poor, really poor. Not by the McDonald's and all that stuff. We kind of went places where shacks--and I'd 01:01:00never seen that before. We didn't see it in Kadena, we didn't see that in Japan--as a matter of fact, I don't think we saw any poverty in Japan. I don't remember any place else that we might have accidentally stumbled through, because a lot of my trips were for pleasure. We'd just jump on a 130 and go and see what's going on.
SPRAGUE: Was that Space Available?
ARMSTRONG: Uh huh.
SPRAGUE: Why don't you tell the listener about what that is, because they may01:02:00not know. I know what Space A is.
ARMSTRONG: Space Available was, "Hey, we got a plane goin' to California thisweek." And the rest of them would say, "You got any room? You got any room?" So, we'd have to sign up to get room. As a matter of fact, three years ago I flew with the 128th to Pope Air Force Base for Linda Dilly's--it was her last weekend. She made Chief, also. And she called me out at the time. She said, "If it hadn't have been for that lady right there, I never would have made it."
SPRAGUE: And for the listener, what was her name again?
ARMSTRONG: Linda Dilly.
SPRAGUE: Okay, got it.
ARMSTRONG: I guess I can say her name, because she's doing good. She wasoriginally from Milwaukee, I helped her pack, and helped her sell her home. And 01:03:00she moved to Pope Air Force Base. And when she got ready--she made Chief, like you [??]--and when she got ready to have her ceremony, she sent for me. And I didn't know she was going to recognize me in front of all them people, but she did. But, I think maybe about four ladies that worked for me made Chief, eventually. I couldn't do it, but they did. When the base closed down, they had a celebration. They called me up on the stage and they said, "We would like to thank you, because if it wasn't for you, the women on this base would not have been able to progress the way they did. You and your big mouth." [Both chuckle] 01:04:00So, I had some good times, I had some bad times, I cried, I told people off, I was able to defend myself... The sexual harassment was not nice, but I was able to handle it. I scratched a guy's face up--he carried that to his grave. His wife divorced him, 'cause I wasn't the first one. I wrote up a Colonel, 'cause he couldn't keep his hands to himself. I was told, "Well, why are you here?" I 01:05:00said, "Do you wanna ask my husband?" I didn't have a husband at the time, but they didn't know it [Sprague chuckles softly]. And some of the sexual harassment was--hm. Was unreal. But I was able to handle it, because I was older. And I taught a lot of the young girls how to handle it, too. "If he touch you, smack him." And that was my rule. "He's not going to report that you smacked him, 'cause he's scared you're going to tell why you smacked him." But I see the ladies out at the VA, and I don't know how they did it. One girl told me she had--was forced to have an abortion. How you like them apples? But I had a good 01:06:00time. I'd do it again.
ARMSTRONG: As a matter of fact, I am doing it again, kind of. I belong to Post18 and I help with VA.
SPRAGUE: So, we'll pick that thought up--Post 18 and VA. Just quick curiosity,do you happen to remember when the C-130 went down? Tell me about that, if you want to. It would have been 1985.
ARMSTRONG: I was in Memphis. We were all goofing around in my room, and we got01:07:00ready to go to bed. And all of a sudden--for some reason or the other, I don't know why the door wasn't locked. But, Fred Marcourt [??] comes flying in the room and screamed, "Violet, turn on the TV. Violet, turn on the TV." And I jumped up on the bed and pushed the button that turned the TV on. And there it was. Two of the boys that I was overseeing, they're both load masters, and their father, whom I said called me yesterday, I thought was down there. But all piled in my room at that time, I called back to the base. The base said they could not 01:08:00give out any information except that the plane had went down. They couldn't tell us who was on it. So, after watching that news special on TV, which was ongoing, I said, "I'm going to call their mother." And sure enough--I don't even remember what time it was, it was night. But I called Alice, and she was crying, and when I heard her crying, I automatically thought, "Bad." And she said that the boys had just called. So, I knew somebody in Security, and they weren't supposed to tell me anything, but I called them anyway, and I said, "Was there anybody on 01:09:00that plane that I knew?" And they said, "You knew them all." That's the lady's floor who I slept on--her husband was one of them. They found a foot in a shoe--do you know what a grouper is?
SPRAGUE: It's a fish, isn't it?
ARMSTRONG: Yes. They also eat humans. The captain came in, his right wing waslow, and it hit a wave and flipped. That's the story that I picked up. They 01:10:00found his body, John's foot was in a shoe. They were not--they were doing somethin' that...that you can't repeat. There were people on the plane that shouldn't have been. So, they didn't get everybody back here. But being Mortuary Affairs, I had to meet that plane and the last time I saw her, she had had the baby and she named the baby Mitchell, after General Mitchell Field. She... 01:11:00
SPRAGUE: Who was the woman who had the baby?
ARMSTRONG: Um... I don't remember his name, the Captain.
SPRAGUE: Could it have been Major Mike Durante?
ARMSTRONG: Yes, it could have been.
SPRAGUE: Maybe? Maybe not?
ARMSTRONG: Oh man, I haven't heard that name since... Now, how did you find outhis name [laughs]?
SPRAGUE: I do my homework. So, you talk about--moving on a little bit--theMortuary detail. Was there any experiences like--with that that you'd be okay with sharing?
ARMSTRONG: Not really, not much. I escorted a body back from Kadena Air Force01:12:00Base--that was my first time having to do that. We came back on a Flying Tiger and they--while I was waiting to get on the plane, they announced, "Sergeant Armstrong, please come to the front desk." So, I go marching to the front desk and they says, "I understand that you're in charge of Mortuary Affairs." "Yes, ma'am." "We need you to do this, this, this, and this." And I'm like, "You've got to be joking." So, I had to ride all the way back from Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa to San Francisco, in a small room, with me and nothing but the body.
ARMSTRONG: Don't like it, ahh.[??]
SPRAGUE: And what is a Flying Tiger? Bring me up to speed on that.
ARMSTRONG: Flying Tiger was one of the biggest--well, I'm going to make youlaugh. I'm afraid to fly [Sprague laughs]. Deathly afraid to fly. But, it was my 01:13:00job. When we got on that plane, there was three, five, and three. All the way through. Two levels. It's one of the biggest planes that they got. And big TV screens, stewardess--
SPRAGUE: Oh, okay.
ARMSTRONG: It's a military plane, but the stewardess, of course, were Air Force.But the thing was humongous. It was bigger than that C-5, where they could put all those buses in it. I'm not sure how many people it could hold? And we never 01:14:00got a chance to go upstairs and see how many people were up there. But, we were crushed in. And they gave me a pill [sighs] that had me saying, "Turn left at the light. Turn right at the stop sign. And what--" Yah, they got those--it's not a seasickness pill--
SPRAGUE: Motion sickness maybe?
ARMSTRONG: So, that's how I got from California to Alaska, Alaska to Okinawa.
SPRAGUE: What do you--do you have any memories of Kadena?
ARMSTRONG: Kadena was great except for those, so-called--what do you call them,little monkeys?
SPRAGUE: Macaque, maybe?
ARMSTRONG: I don't know, they'd sit outside the window and scratch on thewindow. And then, they had some nice snakes over there. But my job with Kadena 01:15:00was not--was not food service, at the time. I did my 702 duties, even though I was Services. I did 702 duties where you'd walk into the big room, and they had briefcases lined up on the tables, and you had to sort and separate all the paperwork that the pilots and copilots and load masters and stuff had. And you make sure that everybody's briefcase was the way it was supposed to been. And then, when they come back in the evening, you had to undo their paperwork. And then, my food service duties started, because then I would go outside and cook. 01:16:00
SPRAGUE: Well, that seems unusual. So, you have two-duty days? Or how does that work?
ARMSTRONG: Well, it was volunteer, of course.
SPRAGUE: Oh, okay.
ARMSTRONG: The pilots, copilots, and whatnot never--very seldom got back in timefor Dining Hall hours. And so, the ladies would go out there and we'd cook for them, so they'd eat. No, it was not a duty assigned, they--. If I'm going to ride with you, I'm going to keep you happy [Sprague laughs].
SPRAGUE: Do you happen to remember back into the 1980s, when the C-130H gothere? What was that like? Do you remember...with the 440th. Was it--do you happen remember any of that?
ARMSTRONG: The new planes that came in?
ARMSTRONG: To me, they were all the same, to tell the truth. Ah, the main thing01:17:00I can remember is the General flying one of them through--coming out of somewhere, and he was flying through the mountains, and you could see the snow. And I was freakin'. Because the General did not use autopilot. So, we were up, down, sideways. But yeah, they were a bigger, cleaner plane, and he wanted to be the one to take us to Florida and back [Sprague laughs]. So, I had a problem down in Florida with a Captain who decided that um, he wanted to hit me... across the you-know-what with a riding crop. And so, I called back to Milwaukee, 01:18:00and told them I was not going to work for this guy. And they tell me to pull all my people, and move out. They said they'd be there the next day. So, the next day, the General and Major McCain--no, the General and Major Merks stepped off that airplane. I'm not sure whatever happened to him... but I don't think it was very nice. We didn't see him anymore [Sprague laughs softly]. So, when it was time for us to go back to Wisconsin, we had to fly with the General in the new plane.
SPRAGUE: When they used to do that, sometimes they'd call that Map of theEarth--they'd fly the--without the autopilot. 01:19:00
ARMSTRONG: Through the mountains?
SPRAGUE: Through the mountains.
ARMSTRONG: Forget that!
SPRAGUE: Yeah. They used to call that Map of the Earth.
ARMSTRONG: One time I was on a plane, I don't know where I was going, but all ofa sudden, the load master was blocking my view. I was sitting near the window. And he got so I couldn't see out the window and stuff, you know. But I felt the plane banking, and I'm like, "Are they turning around? Going back?" And I was trying to see and he was blocking my view. And we were out over the ocean. It might have been California. But all of a sudden, I told him, "Will you get out of my way?" He said, "You don't want to know!" Oil was flying out of that wing. We've been up twice when I've been hit by lightning.
SPRAGUE: What was that like?
ARMSTRONG: [both laugh] Colonel McCain--we was all sitting on the floor, playing01:20:00cards. And all of a sudden, kaboom. Didn't know what it was, didn't have a clue. And I jumped up to run, don't ask me where I was going. And he grabbed me and forced me back down to the floor. And eventually we found out that it was lightning that hit the plane. And then, one time, we were going to Arizona--I have pictures of it. That hole--it opened up like a can. It just, schooo--so, I took pictures of all the officers and everything standing in front of the plane. I took a civilian plane home [Sprague laughs].
SPRAGUE: So, you mentioned Services Superintendent at Little Rock, and then01:21:00here--what was that experience like for your family while you were working hard and doing these things?
ARMSTRONG: While I was here, I got a chance to go home most of the time, exceptwhen I was doing the four o'clock to midnight and it was a weekend--my son had to come with me. It really didn't affect my family, except to babysit. I didn't leave for Little Rock until the kids were bigger. The kids were older. As a matter of fact, when I joined the military, my daughter was pretty much almost old enough to see about herself. It was just the little guy that--like I said, I 01:22:00had a support system. And I'd come home whenever I could. And so, it wasn't that hard on the kids. I let my daughter live with me, and I made sure that I paid the rent and everything like that, 'n...kept her going. Then I--when I got back from... Little Rock, I don't even remember what I did after that. Well, I stayed on the base--I was on active duty, you know. I was [inaudible] days five days a week. In fact, I was on [inaudible] days until I left the military. 01:23:00
SPRAGUE: Okay. So, a couple of questions--
ARMSTRONG: Then, after that, what did I do? Oh, I went to work for VA.
SPRAGUE: Okay. So, let's wrap up the military piece and then we'll get--come tothe VA. Did you, by chance, have any involvement with the operations in the Balkans in '93?
ARMSTRONG: Uh-uh [no].
SPRAGUE: No? Okay. How about what was going on in Haiti?
ARMSTRONG: The only thing we did with stuff like that was we collected clothesand stuff like that, you know. I don't know what they were all for, but anytime there was a Red Cross need, or something like that. And the planes would load up, and do what they had to do. The only thing I did was fix box lunches for the 01:24:00crew and sent them on their way.
SPRAGUE: 'Kay. What about--you mentioned earlier--we'll come back around toit--Honduras. Tell me about that.
ARMSTRONG: That's when they got angry at me, because I wouldn't go to Honduraswhen the plane crashed.
ARMSTRONG: My Sergeant was very upset with that, because I was Mortuary Affairs.As I told you before, I'm not a lover of flying--[Sprague chuckles]
SPRAGUE: But you're in the Air Force [laughs].
ARMSTRONG: I know, I know. I still do it. Grit my teeth, but nothing, still do it.
ARMSTRONG: The thought of that plane flippin' over in that water... [Chuckles] I01:25:00wasn't going. I refused.
SPRAGUE: Okay. So, we get to 1995 and what made you decide to retire or leavethe military?
ARMSTRONG: They had been trying to put me out because of my weight. I have,presently--they were just dealing with this the other day--I have thyroid problems. And I used to run around that base every single day, because my weight was coming up. And I was taking six Correctols a day. Six laxatives. And I was still gaining weight. And finally, a nurse said, "Violet, have you ever had your 01:26:00thyroids checked?" I don't know what a thyroid is. So, I don't remember whether I went out the VA, or where I went, but they did blood tests and found out that my thyroid was functioning at fifteen percent. So, they put me in a hospital. Until they got me--medication got me straightened out. So, they wrote this big letter to Major McCain, and--'cause he was my supervisor, he was my commander--and said that I would be having problems for the next six months until they got me regulated. I never filed for disability for that. 'Cause, 01:27:00y'know, it was a body function. So, they tried to kick me out. Sergeant [inaudible]. They tried to kick me out. And that nurse said, "She's running every single day around this base, twice. She's doing stuff that she's not supposed to do," which was the Correctol. "Very seldom is she eating, she stopped smoking, what do you want from her?" And so, they let me stay. I stopped smoking in '91. I did everything I thought I could do, and then when they found out that I had a thyroid problem, they kind of left me alone for a while--with 01:28:00the promise that when my twenty years was up that I would leave the military.
SPRAGUE: So, you've left the military, you're retired at twenty. Tell me aboutyour transition, then, from the military to more full-time civilian world.
ARMSTRONG: I went into inactive reserve, that's what gave me my twenty-eight years.
ARMSTRONG: I left the 440th in August or September of '95. I applied for VAHospital, they hired me. A couple of months later, I worked there as a medical secretary. And then I started looking down the road at retirement, and I found 01:29:00out that I could make more money toward retirement and salary if I worked for post office. So, I transferred from the VA to the post office. And I stayed there until I retired.
SPRAGUE: And what was it like working for the post office?
ARMSTRONG: [Laughs] Put me back in the military. I never did any physical laborin my life. VA was physical labor. You didn't know how many hours you were going to work. Sometimes you worked eight, sometimes you worked ten, sometimes you worked twelve. Sometimes you worked five days, sometimes you worked six days, 01:30:00sometimes you worked seven days. The post office was a very interesting place to work, simply because everybody's got pets. You know, everybody's got a friend, or whatever. So, some people worked, some people don't. I was just on the phone this morning with one of the girls I worked with. She finally lost it--lost her temper and she's fired, after all these years. I was a clerk. I used to at least have magazines--big stacks of them, like this-- when I first came there. And you read the zip code and you throw 'em--they had eight hampers out there, and you 01:31:00had to take 'em off the belt and throw 'em to whatever zip code they were. And after about a week of that, I couldn't move [laughs].
SPRAGUE: So, backing up before the postal service, how long were you with the VA?
ARMSTRONG: I was there three years.
SPRAGUE: Three years, okay. And what did you do while you were there, at the VA?
ARMSTRONG: I was a medical secretary.
SPRAGUE: Okay, you said that, right.
ARMSTRONG: Computers were just starting to come into the hospitals and thedoctors would see a patient, and they would write down everything. And then, you would transcribe into the computer. And you would check-in patients, you would check-out patients, you would make appointments for patients. With me, I would 01:32:00go from clinic to clinic, if someone didn't show up, after they had me trained--if someone didn't show up, they would ship me to another clinic. That's kind of another reason I left, too. They had me going different places and whatnot. And then, they had me starting to train people.
SPRAGUE: Do you think because you were a veteran that drove your decision to goto the VA? Or, not? Or...
ARMSTRONG: My ex-husband worked there for thirty-two years. And he left in '94,and I came in '95. It was a good place for him to work. And so, he told me, "Why don't you try that?" And so, the day that I got hired, the day that was I 01:33:00supposed to start working, my mother died. And they were nice enough to give me an extension. They put me on the payroll, and they gave me an extension. So, you can't beat that one.
SPRAGUE: So, on the whole, how has your life changed because of serving in themilitary? How would your life have been different if you hadn't been in the military?
ARMSTRONG: I don't even know. I really don't even know, because the militarymade such a difference in my life and my thinking, that I can't even imagine what I'd have did without it. The people that I've met, the opportunities that I've had--to me, it was one of the best things that I could have did. I've got a 01:34:00niece that went in and did six years, I've got a niece that went in and did twenty years, I've got a niece that went in and did eight. I've got nephews that have followed me into the Air Force. And then, I got some of them that went to the Marine Corps and the Army, but still. And now, I got great-nephews that are in the Air Force now. They all came to me for advice. "What do you think?" And I told them what I thought, and I told them what I think they should train in and stuff. So, we're kind of a military family. Let's see, brother, nephews, great-nephews, and great-nephews--four generations. My son was a Marine. 01:35:00
SPRAGUE: You're rolling your eyes [chuckles]. So, what do you think--what do youthink it meant for you to serve as a woman, as opposed to a man?
ARMSTRONG: I don't think that I got the opportunities that I would have gottenif I was a man. If I'd have been a man, I'd have had more rank, simply because I made sure that I had my tests done, I made sure that I was never missing, I was never disciplined for disobedience and stuff like that. I believe that I could have made Chief. I've had people--several females thank me for paving the way. 01:36:00And they made Chief. Yeah, I think if I'd have been a man, I'd have done a little bit better.
SPRAGUE: So, what motivated you to do this interview today?
ARMSTRONG: A friend of mine [chuckles]. Because you had asked me to do it and Ididn't wanna do it, because I didn't want to say anything negative about the military, and some of the things that happened in the military. But he said, "Violet," he said, "Why don't you tell 'em some of the things that happened to you, so that it might help somebody else?" And I don't see how it can help anybody else, 'cause I don't know where this goes, but... a couple of months ago I was at a celebration for--was it 8666? Or was it 6888 [6888th Central Postal 01:37:00Directory Battalion]? The females that were sent to take care of the mail for the military.
SPRAGUE: Okay! I don't know that one.
ARMSTRONG: Ohhh, that is the most interesting story. And I have the movies forthat. I met her here at VA, when we were doing the I Am Not Invisible.
ARMSTRONG: She was in a wheelchair--Anna Mae Johnson. I think that's her name.
SPRAGUE: Now I'm remembering. [chuckles] Yep.
ARMSTRONG: And when they showed that movie, I became prouder than her than I hadbeen in the first place. When I met her upstairs, I asked her could I shake her 01:38:00hand. And when she gave me her hand, I kissed it, because, "Women like you, made it so that women like me could do what we did." So, I've got both of the discs at home, I showed them to the kids--made sure the kids saw.
SPRAGUE: Is there anything that we've missed today that you'd like to cover?
ARMSTRONG: The fun I've had. [Sprague chuckles] The guys used to take meeverywhere. Me, Linda, and a few others. Places that I never would have got to see. Never would have got to enjoy 'em. 'Cause the military gives you that 01:39:00opportunity. [Covers microphone] And the one thing that I don't want to say was--
SPRAGUE: Restarting the interview with Violet. What else--was there anythingelse that we might have missed that you'd like to say?
ARMSTRONG: Well, as I think about, I think the one thing that I'm extra proudabout is that I did not have to sleep my way through the military. I did it honestly.
SPRAGUE: 'Kay, then. Well, Violet, this concludes the interview. Thank you for01:40:00your service.
[End of OH02172.Armstrong_OHMSaudio]