U.S. Air Force • 1967-1989
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is one of many American Veteran accounts published in The Sidney Sun-Telegraph. The writer, who is from Sidney, is conducting the interviews as part of the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.
In 1967, the Selective Service System was a major factor in the lives of many families. Young men had decisions to make. Before being drafted, one could have a choice of the branch of service. However, when the letter from the draft board arrived, and assuming a passing grade on the physical exam, the other selections became limited. There were other options on the table such as the location of service.
Such was the case with Georgia Horne. Her brother was worried about the draft. Georgia learned that an Air Force rule stated that two members of the same family could not serve in the same theater of operations. Her strategy was to join the Air Force. In her selections, she indicated her wish to serve in Thailand. If the Air Force kept its word, things could work out for her brother when he was drafted.
Georgia Horne was ready to serve her country. She had been to the U.S. Army and to the U.S. Air Force recruiters' offices. When it was hard decision time, Georgia went to the Army office, but they didn't have the paperwork for her enlistment completed. She went to the Air Force where the forms were all completed and she joined.
As all personnel who have joined the Air Force in the last 40 years, Georgia was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. There, she was sent on to Wilford Hall Ambulatory Medical Center (WHAMC), a large center for surgery and follow-on care.
Georgia was to receive instruction on at least two fronts. She needed to learn how to be a member of the Air Force – customs and courtesies, physical readiness, drill and ceremonies, but not as intensively as a raw recruit would. Second, was real, on-the-job training as a surgical nurse. This particular field was in high demand (still is) in 1967 as the Vietnam War boiled in SE Asia. Surely, she was issued the clothing, etc., and received the shots, and got her hair trimmed, but the main push was to train her and others about surgical care of the injured.
The next stop was Hill Air Force Base for more experience, and then on to Langley Air Force Base (outside Washington D.C.) for two years. Following that, she was deployed to Thailand. Service in Thailand was going to be hectic. It was as a place where there were not so many other females serving. She also pointed out that it was different in that elephants walked on the roads in Thailand.
Her specific work assignment were mostly emergency surgeries. The operating room at the hospital there served all branches in the U.S. military. They operated on Special Forces troops. When one of them came through her area, the injured person was always accompanied by another soldier in case of an inordinate slip of the tongue, or threat.
During the Vietnam War about 80 percent of the U.S.A.F. air strikes over North Vietnam originated from bases in Thailand. At its peak in 1969, more airmen were serving in Thailand than were serving in South Vietnam.
Over the course of her years of being a surgical nurse, men would approach her and say they remembered her. She responded that if they could show her their incision, she would remember. She served in Thailand for 15 months. No doubt, she had a role in saving many lives.
Her next duty station was Clark Air Force Base on Luzon Island in the Philippines. Clark is about 40 miles northwest of Manila. She was a surgical nurse in the operating room of the medical facility.
The assignment to Clark was not as intense as the previous one. She and others could take day trips to see Bataan and Corregidor and other historic places. They could go to Subic Bay Navy Base for shopping purposes. Activities were more relaxed. The Philippine people were also good craftsmen who could do about anything.
She served at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. She had orders forTurkey and tried to encourage her special man, also a member of the U.S. Air Force, to serve there as well. He declined the offer yet within a few days, he received orders for the same base. The two were married in Turkey, but needed a U.S. marriage ceremony and certificate. That need was met by her obtaining a flight across the Atlantic Ocean on a C-130 airplane.
She enjoyed her time at the base in Turkey. Her image was unusual to the natives there. Having fair complexion and red hair caused locals to stare.
In her service, she was able to keep in touch with family and friends by writing letters and making phone calls. Her profession and skills were much in demand. Her last assignment was at Warren AFB, in Wyoming. She thought it was a little odd to end her service at a base that didn't have its own runway.
She enjoyed her time with the military but it had to end. In very little time, she was hired by the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Cheyenne where she worked for another twenty-one years. Now, she volunteers at the same hospital, continuing to serve.
You've done and continue to do a great job, Captain Georgia Horne! Thank you for your service!