Two women were honored on Tuesday for serving in the United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, better known as the SPARS, during World War II.
“They set the path forward and broke barriers and did all these incredible things during that particular conflict,” shared U.S. Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Jackie Huber.
Ninety-six-year-old Yeoman Second Class Kathleen Ruff Donahue and 107-year-old Lt. Junior Guard Terry Nelson were given plaques for their part in the first military branch that gave women the opportunity to serve.
“Very exciting in a way. We were trying so hard. We knew we were going to win, it’s just when? The question was when,” shared Nelson.
“Stationed in New York City, I lived in Manhattan, but I worked in Staten Island. At a harbor patrol boat repair base,” shared Donahue.
The two women never thought that they would be recognized not just for their service, but as women who paved the way for others like them to be able to serve their country.
After their time with the SPARS, both women went on to have families. Both women had their daughters with them, who said they couldn’t be more proud.
“When you’re a child of a parent that has served I don’t think you fully realize the sacrifices that people made while they were serving and to blaze the trail for women is just incredible,” said Nelson’s daughter.
“We’re very grateful for everyone to recognize. The one thing mom always told me about was the country came together like a fist in World War II, and we need to remember that we were united as a country,” shared Donahue.
Nelson is currently the oldest living SPARS in the country. SPARS was deactivated in 1947.
Today, the term is usually used when referring to a female coast guardsman.