American Legion Petaluma Spotlight is on Rose Nowak
I come from a family of 6 children, the second youngest. Three brothers all older than I served in the Navy. I entered in November 1959 serving 3 years, all stateside duty, during the Cold War and early Vietnam War. I would like to mention that all the women who have served in the military were all volunteers.
Basic training was 8 weeks @ Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, followed by Basic Medical Service Specialist school for 8 weeks and working in the hospital another 3-4 weeks. Women were billeted in the women’s barracks separate from the men, and basic training was also women only. School was co-ed made up 50% men and women, and upon graduation we all continued to Apprentice Medical School in Montgomery, Alabama for another 8 weeks. From there I was stationed at Keesler AFB
Mississippi for the duration of my enlistment.
During this time there weren’t a lot of military nurses, and we basically did all nursing which included patient care, giving shots, passing medication under the supervision of the nurse, with one exception which was starting blood transfusions.
I grew up in a small town in North Dakota on the Canadian border, so traveling to the Deep South during a time of racial segregation was total culture shock to me. This was a time of water fountains and restaurants clearly marked and enforced as “white only” and “colored.” Although the military was integrated these states were not and when off off base we had to abide by the local rules. On one occasion a friend from the barracks
and I caught the bus to go into town and she had to sit in the back of the bus.
Women today have greater opportunities to participate and advance their professional careers compared to women of the ‘60’s. I have never regretted my time in the military and I still keep in touch with one of my best friends who lives in Texas, 67 years later.
I currently serve as the president of Redwood Empire Unit 77 of Military Women Across the Nation, a women veterans service organization, comprised of women from all branches of service who have served during all military eras. I am a Life Member of American Legion Post 28 and Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 563, both in Petaluma. In addition I am a Charter Member of WIMSA – Women in Military Service for America. This is a memorial established by the U.S. federal government honoring women who served in the United States Armed Forces in all eras and is located at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. I am registered and have my personal history documented at the foundation’s building.
I enjoy gardening (flowers), genealogy and art (painting) and also volunteer with Hospice. My husband and I have been married 52 years and have resided in Petaluma for 42 years. We have 2 adult daughters who reside in the area.