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WWII Vet on why she enlisted: ‘I said, ‘why can’t I do that?”

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Opal Waldman


GRAYSLAKE, Ill. -- Opal Waldman may only be 4 feet 11 inches, but don't let her size fool you; she's been a powerhouse since she was a young girl growing up on a farm outside Grayslake, Ill., She's also one of the few living women who joined the Women's Army Corps during WWII.

With an older brother in the Navy and another in the Marines, Opal says in 1945 she decided to head to the enlistment office and join herself at the age of 21, putting all three siblings in the military, fighting for their country.

“I saw all the boys going in and I said, ‘why can’t I do that?’” she says in an upcoming episode of the show "Operation Fishing Freedom" on the Discovery Channel.

Opal's story caught the eye of Jay Garstecki, another Illinois local, who hosts "Operation Fishing Freedom."

"There were a lot of women that served in World War II, and there's a small group of fighter pilots, and even African-American women in World War II, and people just don't know that, " Garstecki said.

Garstecki said the idea for the show came after he lost his grandfather, also a WWII Veteran, and thought of the less than 4 percent of World War II Veterans still alive today.

While she was reluctant at first, Opal agreed to share her story. She talks about the Rosie the RiVeter campaign, and the long trip to basic training, where they had to guard the one railcar with the women from the dozens of others packed with men. Her service as a medical supply nurse took her to Walla Walla, WA, Camp Roberts in California and finally San Francisco.

She doesn't see herself as a trailblazer, but a young woman who did what she needed to do.

"Maybe I'm an old gabber, but I'm so proud of the women that are in the service today, and I think they need to hear how it happened when people my age were in the service," she said.

After serving for 18 months, Opal had to return to civilian life after she was married, due to military policies at that time.

Still, she made history as a woman of the war. Her story will be featured on"Operation Fishing Freedom" on the Discovery Channel this Sunday at 7 a.m.


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