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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Harriett Jamane Lewis Yeager, 2008

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Object ID: WV0410.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Harriett Jamane Lewis Yeager's childhood in Kinston, North Carolina, and service in the U.S. Air Force during the late seventies.

Summary:

Yeager describes in detail her childhood in Kinston, North Carolina, including being raised by a distant relative, her sheltered youth, and the integration of her high school. She also discusses the hardships she faced while attempting to provide for her son, and how these events influenced her decision to join, and later leave, the air force. Yeager describes enjoying basic training and her clerical job at Carswell AFB in Texas.

Other subjects include the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the morale of the post-Vietnam military, the role of women in combat, and the quality of life in the air force. Yeager also discusses her political philosophies, her aversion to violence, and her views on patriotism.

Creator: H. Jamene Lewis Yeager

Biographical Info:

H. Jamane Yeager of Kinston, North Carolina, served in the United States Air Force for a year and a half and then in the air force reserve through the late 1970s.

Collection: Harriett Jamane Lewis Yeager Oral History

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Therese Strohmer:

Well, this is Therese Strohmer and it is Tuesday, April 22, 2008. We're in the Jackson Library. This is an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Okay, Jamane. Go ahead and state your name the way you'd like it on your collection.

Harriet Jamane Yeager:

H. Jamane Yeager.

TS:

Okie doke. We'll go ahead and check this.

[recording paused]

TS:

Okay, Jamane. Thank you for coming.

HJY:

[Let's just get me comfortable?]

TS:

There you go. Take those shoes off. Why don't you go ahead and start and tell me where you were born, where you grew up?

HJY:

I grew up in eastern North Carolina in a little town called Kinston, and [it] was a small town that I was kind of wanting to get away from.

TS:

Did you have any brothers and sisters growing up?

HJY:

I kind of come from a weird family. I have—originally I am one of seven kids, but we didn't grow up together. So I grew up with somebody else. So we're kind of dysfunctional, I guess.

TS:

Well, who'd you grow up with?

HJY:

I grew up with—It's kind of hard to describe. The person I grew up with was my great grandfather's cousin. So at that time, it was like—well, it kind of was like, at that period in time, people kind of took care of family, and things were bad for my biological mom and she had a lot of kids and family members were taking us. So that's kind of how that happened.

TS:

Yeah, I understand. I understand that.

HJY:

Yeah.

TS:

So when—were there other kids around when you were growing up?

HJY:

Oh, yeah. I grew up in, I guess, it's—it was a predominantly black neighborhood and had a lot of cousins. There were a lot of—there were a lot of kids. And we just—I don't know. It was fun. It was a community. It didn't seem to be quite like that anymore, but it was a big community.

TS:

Do you remember—Well, was it a rural area?

HJY:

Kinston, to me, it wasn't. To me it was the city. But to Greensboro standards, and Raleigh, they think of eastern North Carolina as being rural. So I guess it was, but it was in the city, so it wasn't like on a farm or anything.

TS:

Okay. Well, what kind of things did you do?

HJY:

Oh, gosh. You're going to make me kind of share my age here, huh?

TS:

Well, sure!

HJY:

We just did simple stuff, you know. We didn't have all the games and stuff, so we created our own games. Played a lot of hide and seek. I figured out why the boys wanted to play hide and seek later. But we just did really simple stuff: marbles, jump rope, just, you know, the stuff—It was just really simple, you know, but we had fun. We went to the beach in the summer. I had sisters—though the person that I think of as my mother, she had two older daughters, and in the summertime, they would take us down to the beach because we weren't that far, maybe an hour and a half from the beach. So every summer we would just grab like a couple car loads and we'd go down and spend the day at the beach. And that was something I always remembered because it was so much fun. It was a lot of—it was like a big family. I think everybody knew your family, and everybody knew your mom and dad, so you couldn't really be bad because somebody was always watching, you know. I think the people really cared about you, you know. And even now, as some of these people are dying, you know, I feel it. I guess I remember what it was as a child, and so now I see them dying, and it's a little—you know. Plus it makes me feel like, “You're really getting older now.” [laughter] But yeah, there was a—it was a, just a big community. And when I said that, when they had the flood, my community got wiped out.

TS:

What year? Do you remember?

HJY:

It was '99.

TS:

Okay.

HJY:

And that whole—everything that I remember as a child was flooded. It all was wiped out. So it was so devastating, because it was like I had nothing to go back home to anymore. And I don't know. That's a hard thing. I've never had to deal with something like that before. That was very hard. But yeah, otherwise it was just a big—just a big family, you know. Everybody knew everybody, and we just played, and it was innocent. There wasn't a bunch of guns and stuff like you see now. You know, if there was a fight, you got out and you fought with your hands, you know. And the next day, you were probably, “This is my friend,” kind of thing. It wasn't like this went on forever. If somebody needed something, my mother was always giving away my clothes to other people who were a little less fortunate than I am [laughs]—than we were. And I kind of grew up like that. And my husband is constantly like, “You're never going to have anything because you just give it away,” but that was how I was raised, you know.

TS:

Continued the tradition.

HJY:

Yeah. And I don't know. You just kind of feel like if you can help somebody—I'm pretty good at picking up stray animals, too. [TS laughs] But it was like that, you know. You really cared about the people. If someone was—I guess what I didn't realize at the time that I realize as I got older: we were all poor, but we didn't know it, that we were poor. And I told my sister that all the time. I said, “But I didn't know I was poor.” I mean, I had food. I had a roof over my head, you know. I never went hungry. I always had clothes to wear. But there was always someone a little less fortunate than I was. And I guess that was where my mom was like, “You know, that doesn't make them less of a person.” That was like you're supposed to help them. We're supposed to help them. And so that was what she'd do. She'd take the food out of the freezer and give it to somebody [laughs]. Because that was her nature, and we kind of grew up like that.

TS:

Did she work at all?

HJY:

She worked for a little while. She worked at a shirt factory when I was like in elementary school or something. And then—I'm trying to think. Seems like by the time I got about in the sixth grade, she had to quit because she had problems with her foot, and this just kind of got progressively worse. But from what I understood, she had like arthritis or something in her ankle and it just got progressively worse over the years. So about, seems like about the sixth grade, I remember her being on crutches. Then she had to stop working. And my grandmother lived with her, with us. That was even more fun. Her mother lived with us and—

TS:

What are their names?

HJY:

Her—Well, my mother's name was Willie Mae. Her mother's name was Louisa. And she—and this is funny—she lived with us. And so she was like about eighty-eight years old when she died. Now this is the first person that I ever remember dying. And I used to sleep with her because, you know, there's only so many rooms.

TS:

Right.

HJY:

And I used to sleep with her. And she used to constantly get at me because she said that I would walk up and down her legs at night. And I wasn't aware of it, you know. But even to this day, my feet move [chuckling] when I go to sleep. And she used to get at me all the time about that. “Stop walking up my leg!” When you're a little kid, you don't know.

TS:

Yeah, it's hard to stop it.

HJY:

You don't know that. But I remember she was just—I don't know. She was fun.

TS:

That's neat.

HJY:

She was just fun. She used to have a garden. Our house—that was the other thing that I remember—our house was in the city, but it was like a little farm around it, because we had all these fruit trees, and my grandmother, she had like—We had this huge pecan tree in our backyard, and we had a fig tree, and we had a grape arbor, I guess is what you call it. And I mean it was just a mini-farm around our house, you know. The only thing missing was the hogs. [laughter] Thank god for that. But I think that was something that my grandmother—and actually, now that I've gotten older, I realize that that generation were more self-sufficient than we are now. And so that was why we had all these things. They had little gardens and all that stuff that I grew up with and we've kind of gotten away from, and then now I understand that, you know, what they were doing. Now we're going to go back there.

TS:

Exactly, exactly.

HJY:

It was fun though. It was. I do think that this generation is missing a lot because they're not—they don't have that.

TS:

Yeah.

HJY:

You know it isn't all about who you can talk to on the cell phone and all that kind of stuff. Yeah. They've missed some of that. And it's fun.

TS:

Did your mother have a partner or was she married?

HJY:

Yeah. She was married and they were, gosh, married forever. And—forty, fifty years maybe. Yeah. And she died in '91 and my father died in '95, and so it's like, I don't know, there's—kind of lonely, I guess.

TS:

Yeah.

HJY:

No—there's no home, so—

TS:

The flood, yeah.

HJY:

You know?

TS:

Well, what did your father do?

HJY:

He worked at the tobacco factory. He worked at the tobacco factory from the time—he told me, told us, told me from the time he was about fifteen until he retired. So he worked there over fifty years, because I think he retired about sixty-five. And my—like I was telling you, my mother was like sick, and over a period of time, I guess, it got worse, and I think maybe the arthritis spread, and she used to go to Chapel Hill to have surgeries and all this. And now you have to remember this is in the early seventies—late sixties, early seventies, and my dad would take her back and forth to Chapel Hill. And when she applied for disability, they turned her down, the state. And so all those doctor bills and hospital bills, my dad paid for himself, you know. And I sit back and look at that now and, I don't know, I guess I admire him for it. Because I was angry and I wanted him to fight, you know, for disability and he wouldn't. And then I realized over—I'm still angry about him not doing it, but that he bore all of that, the brunt of all the surgeries. Because they operated on, I think on—eventually they operated on one ankle, both knees, both elbows, and then she broke her hip. This was over a period, though, of about twenty-five, thirty years almost maybe. And my dad, he was just always there, you know. And believe me, he wasn't a saint though, but he was good. In his own way, he was good. And he just, you know, took care of all of those bills and all that stuff, so I was like, “Wow.”

TS:

Yeah.

[Tape interrupted.]

HJY:

It was nothing like Charlotte. We always used to hear about Charlotte-Mecklenburg when they first integrated schools, because they were pretty bad.

TS:

Yeah.

HJY:

Oh, I had to be the second one. It's okay.

TS:

Yeah, I know. I'm sorry. Well, we're going back just a little bit to—

HJY:

To school days.

TS:

—to high school, yeah. And you'd talked about J. H. Sampson [Elementary School]. No, that's you—

HJY:

That's the elementary school.

TS:

Adkin, okay.

HJY:

Adkin High School.

TS:

Adkin High School, okay.

HJY:

Now you know I'm not going to remember what I just said, right?

TS:

I know. [laughs] How about the—you were telling me how the teachers were—inspired you.

HJY:

Okay. Oh, okay. I remember. You asked me about did I go to segregated schools, and I went to segregated school up until 1970. And '69-'70, Adkin High School was still an all-black school. And then in '70, the '70-'71 school year is when they integrated the school. And the school name changed. It became Kinston High School. And it wasn't bad. I mean, you know, people wanted to—It just wasn't bad, you know. I think people were—I think we were a little bit more prepared than maybe some other people may have been at other places. And I do remember, now that I think about this, they had these human rights commissions or something like that, and they'd have students from both schools, the white schools and the black schools get together and I guess try to just communicate with each other and stuff like that. And I do remember that. And for some reason I thought—I think I was—I think I was in there or I was on that committee or something.

But it just wasn't bad, you know. We used to listen on the news at night, and all we ever heard was Charlotte-Mecklenburg, you know, because they were—they started the busing thing. They didn't—so that's all we ever heard about was them. But I don't remember any incidences or anything bad happening. Well, let me take that back. One, and it's really sad, because—this must have been the first year. There was an accident, and if I'm not mistaken, two or three kids got hit by a car, and it was a black kid driving the car. And from what we understood or heard, it was kind of intentional. And I'm not sure, but they gave this kid lots of time, you know. But that was the only thing that I ever remember that was bad about it. And this happened like—the school year was almost over, and I think they had been drinking. This guy had been drinking or something.

TS:

Springtime.

HJY:

So, yeah. And it just, you know, people do stupid stuff. It was unfortunate, though, you know. So everybody kind of really felt bad about that. But otherwise, no riots. no—We were boring.

TS:

[laughs] What size community was it?

HJY:

Kinston is—I have no idea. I really don't know.

TS:

Did it have—so when you were—when you went to integration, was there like just one high school for whites and one high school—

HJY:

No, there were—yeah, there was two high schools.

TS:

Two high schools, one for each.

HJY:

And I was trying to remember if there was—at the time, I think there was just one elementary—two elementary schools. There were two—I think there were two for each.

TS:

Okay. For the elementary?

HJY:

Yeah, for elementary. And I'm not sure about the middle. I know there was one middle school, because all of us ended up going to that one middle school. And that was really it. It really was. It's not a huge place. I mean, I think the population may be—I don't even know if it's a hundred thousand.

TS:

Today?

HJY:

Yeah, it's still pretty small.

TS:

Yeah.

HJY:

Yeah, excuse me. But the mayor—I have to tell you this—the mayor, I'll never forget his name was Simon Citizen, and he was the only mayor I ever knew.

TS:

Simon Citizen?

HJY:

Yes. He was the only mayor I ever knew. I thought this guy would never get out of office. And I think someone, they were saying he'd been in office like twenty-seven years or thirty years. It's like, my god.

TS:

That's a long time.

HJY:

That's a long time.

TS:

Yeah.

HJY:

Too long. But high school was fun.

TS:

Yeah.

HJY:

It really was. I cut class one day, got caught, didn't do that anymore.

TS:

Yeah. And you had said how your teachers really encouraged—told you that you could do anything.

HJY:

Oh, yeah. I think that was—part of that is just being—I think that may be part of the segregated society is that you're kind of taught that you're just as good as everybody else and that you have to go out and do these things. And that was one of the things that the teachers used to always tell us, that, you know, you're just as smart as anybody, and that you can do anything you want to do, you know. It was kind of almost like drilled into you that you have to go out—you know, “Don't embarrass me.” [laughs] “Don't embarrass us. And use your brain. Go out there and make a mark on the world.” I understand. I didn't understand at the time quite as much as you do as you get older and stuff, but I think we needed motivation. They needed to keep us motivated. They knew what we didn't know. And I think that was their way of trying to prepare us for what society had to offer. But they were—they, I think they did it from the kindness of their hearts. It wasn't mean, malicious, you know, anything like that. But they just wanted us to be prepared for life.

TS:

Well, when you were a young girl in high school, what were your thoughts about what your future looked like for you? What kind of things did you think you were going to be able to do? What did you want to do?

HJY:

I had no—I don't know what I thought. [chuckles] I was a well-protected child. I'm not sure, because I don't know. I didn't have—I didn't have role models at the time, so I really didn't know what I wanted to do. All I knew was I wanted to get out of Kinston. And for some reason, my daydream was New York City, and that's probably from television. But I didn't really know what I wanted to do. That's how I ended up in the service, because I didn't know what I wanted to do. But most of my friends were either going to go to college or they were going in the service. And so it was like, “Well, which one are you going to do?” Now there was another little stipulation in there. By the time I came out of high school, though, I had a son. So I had to figure out what it was I was going to do. And so that can change things.

TS:

Yeah.

HJY:

So I really didn't know. I knew one thing, though; I didn't want to be a nurse. That was the one thing I knew. And the reason was because being around my mom being sick and other family members, I felt helpless. And that was the one thing I did not want to do. It was because I just, I didn't like that feeling of helplessness. And sometimes I beat myself up because I probably should have gone into nursing. Nursing is a good profession. But that was the one thing I didn't want to do was that. And I do remember that and that was from that, from my childhood.

TS:

I understand that. Now you were—I'm going to go back just a little bit in time. In 1968, that was a pretty turbulent year. Were you in junior high then?

HJY:

Yes.

TS:

Do you remember anything about that year? Robert F. Kennedy died—

HJY:

Martin Luther King died.

TS:

Martin Luther King.

HJY:

All I remember about 1968 was my mother telling me that, “You cannot go out.” There was—I remember hearing, probably the next day after Dr. King died, that some kids had like turned over some police cars or something like that. Nothing terribly, terribly bad, but all I remember my mother saying was, “You're not going out of here. You're not going anywhere. Don't even ask.”

And I was like, “Okay.”

So like I said, I was well-protected. She just—I wasn't going to go, I mean, come on. But she was like, “No. You can't go out there.” And maybe she knew, I guess, what I didn't, you know.

It really wasn't—I don't remember there being a lot of violence. There really wasn't a lot of violence. I saw more violence on television than I ever saw in Kinston at that time, so it really wasn't. I think there's always going to be somebody who has to vent somehow, I guess maybe. And I think these were some seniors in high school or something. But that was all I ever heard about it, you know. Life went on, fortunately.

TS:

So when you were going through high school, it was a little bit of the time for hippies and black power. Did you have any—

HJY:

I have no recollection of that.

TS:

—recollection of that?

HJY:

No, I was—I think we were removed from that. Seriously. I look at the period now and I can read about it, but I don't remember seeing it. I don't remember—the first time I ever saw the black power sign was when the Olympians stood on the thing. That was the first time I'd ever seen that.

TS:

Nineteen seventy-six, in Munich?

HJY:

Yeah. I didn't see it. We just didn't see it like that. I don't know why, but we didn't. I didn't—I often wondered about that myself. Even today, like, “What did we do, or what did our parents do during this time period?” Because I don't remember anything, you know? My parents were older, but the younger ones, the younger generation, I don't—I don't remember us doing anything. I don't remember any marches. I don't know. I really, truly don't.

TS:

[laughter] Well, what kind of music did you listen to?

HJY:

Oh, now that's great. I love music. I still love music. I grew up listening to rock and roll. I had soul music, but I also had rock and roll, because that's what was on the radio station. And people to this day cannot understand that I, black woman, can listen to rock and roll. I grew up listening to the Allman Brothers and the Doobie Brothers and, oh gosh, people that I didn't even know who they were. I didn't even know their names, but I had heard them on the radio for so long. I grew up listening to country music. And I had—We had R&B. It was just music. To me, it was just music.

TS:

So you had quite a wide variety that you listened to.

HJY:

Yes. But we did not have a black station then. It was so funny, because people will think, “You didn't have a black station?”

“No!”

But I always had a radio. And I think that was from my dad. My dad would go to sleep with a radio on, and so I could hear the radio in my bedroom down the hall, and he would go to sleep with the radio on. And I, to this day, if you walk in my house, in the kitchen the radio is on. And so I think that was part of it, that I just I heard a lot of radio music and it didn't matter, you know. Plus, back then, I mean, there were not a lot of black shows on TV either. So you had to—like Saturday night, you'd listen to the Grand Ole Opry. But it wasn't bad. It was fun, hey. What can I say? I like music. I really do.

I probably am further removed from jazz than anything because we did not—My dad didn't play jazz. My dad, here's a good example of my dad. My dad was—if I'm not—who did it? I think it's The Temptations did a song called Papa Was a Rolling Stone. That was what my dad reminded me of. He liked to party. And he loved, he loved R&B. And he also drank a little bit. And once he got in his partying mood, he wanted to play music. And so we had music, you know. He loved Michael Jackson, because my—I have a nephew who was probably about Michael's age now, and he was little, and when Michael Jackson came out, my dad was in love with him because he kept thinking my nephew should be Michael Jackson. It was so funny. But we had a lot of music. We just had a lot of music in my house. My dad—None of us played a darn instrument, though. That was the one thing. I'm like, “We don't play an instrument, y'all.” But yeah, there was a lot of music and a lot of variety. Everything but jazz.

TS:

Did you go to dances, too, then?

HJY:

No.

TS:

No. No dances?

HJY:

No. That was a—being the tail end child, and the olders, the older girls, were gone, and so by the time I'd come along, I was by myself. My mother was older, and like I said, protective, and I wasn't allowed to just go, because she didn't want me to go by myself, you know. And I remember the first time I went to a—We had this little recreation center. And I wanted to go to the recreation center on a Saturday night. Well, I got to go to this recreation center, but my dad sat in the parking lot. Then I didn't want to go anymore. So I went one time. That was it. I'm like, “No. This is no fun.” I mean, come on. That's no fun.

TS:

Well, at least he was in the parking lot.

HJY:

Yeah. Thank goodness for that. [laughter]

TS:

But yeah, that would be a little intimidating.

HJY:

That's embarrassing.

TS:

That's right. Okay. Well, so you're in high school and did you—Now, you had a son in high school?

HJY:

My senior year.

TS:

Your senior year, and so you're thinking about your future. Why don't you tell me a little bit about how your thought process went through this?

HJY:

My thought process was—[sigh]. Well, let's see. How long we got?

TS:

[laughs] As long as you want.

HJY:

My son's biological father and I split up once he went home and told his mother that I was pregnant. He wasn't allowed to talk to me anymore. Now here's the clincher. We sat in a class together, in a history class together, and the next day, he had moved out of my locker and he was not sitting behind me anymore in class. But he never told me. Finally, I'm like, “What is going on?” I thought he was a wimp because he couldn't tell me. But at any rate, so we split up, and my son was born. This happened in February, and then he was born in September. And this was actually this was my junior year. And I am—let's see, what's the word? Determined. He was a—his dad was a senior and I was a junior, and he was graduating the year my son was born. So I was like, “If you're going to graduate, so am I.” Because a lot—At that time, a lot of kids had kids and they dropped out of school. And that was like, “This ain't happening here,” kind of. So I got really that determined attitude about it, you know. And my mother was really sweet and stuff. The only problem was my mother couldn't take care of my son because of the arthritis and stuff. So my junior—My senior year of high school, his grandmother, his biological father's grandmother, took care of my son while I finished school. So she kept him through the week and then I'd get him on the weekend, which was good. I mean, I couldn't ask for better, except that she didn't think it was his until she saw him. And you know, god, people. At any rate, that's another story.

But anyway, I knew then that I had to take care of my son, you know. And that was when I think I really seriously thought, “What are my options? What am I going to do?” kind of came into play. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why I didn't think about that before. I just don't know. It was—I didn't—I think I thought I was just going to go to college. And I think having the child made it, I don't want to say—He made me more determined about what it was I needed to do. My first thing was that I have to take care of him. I have to be able to support him. So that became very important, because it was—I mean, his dad took care of him as long as he was with him, but he kind of made it clear you know, “I'm not going to [take care of you—added by veteran ]” you know.

I'm like, “Whatever,” you know.

So it was like, “Okay. I have to take care of my child.” So that was kind of where, you know—at the time, it was like, well, you can't exactly go to college and take your kid. That isn't going to work. And I was slow. I think sometimes I think of myself, “You know, you were slow, girl.” I've just been slow all my life, seems like. But it was—That was the turning point, was like, okay, you have to make up your mind what it is you're going to do here, or attempt to do anyway. So that was kind of like, okay, my goal was that I have to take care of him. So then that's actually when I decided to go in the military.

TS:

Now how—Did you know anybody that was in the military prior to this?

HJY:

My brother-in-law was in the air force, and he had been to Vietnam a couple of times I think maybe. But I don't think I knew anybody else that had been in. Although I mean I had uncles, but they had been in like World War II or something, and they didn't exactly talk about it, you know. But nobody really close that—Even in my age bracket or something, I didn't know anybody that went in at the time. Now you want to know what's even funnier?

TS:

Yeah, absolutely.

HJY:

When I got ready to go, how people tried to get me not to go. And I was—I thought about that today or yesterday, and I thought you know, “Why?” Back there in the seventies, there was a misconcep—perception about women in the military, and actually it's still kind of out there. But that was the thing that when I finally decided that I'm leaving, I have to go make a life for myself and my son—and funny part was I originally wasn't going to the air force. I was trying to get in the navy. [laughs] I can't swim, but I was trying to get in the navy. And the funny part was I flunked the test, and I walked across the hall to the air force, took their test. Guy says, “Oh yeah. You can do this.”

I'm like, “Okay, great.” So it was like, “That was weird.”

TS:

Well, how was it that you decided on the military?

HJY:

Well, I didn't have much of a choice. It was—when I first got out of high school, I went to work at the shirt factory, and I discovered it was not what I want to do. You know, standing on my feet, what, eight hours a day, pressing shirts. I don't like to iron, regular iron, you know. So I'm like—and you get this big machine and you—that just was not me and I knew it. And I figured that out real soon, like no. You know, those people talk about making production, and you got to do all these shirts to make production and go over that to make extra money. It just wasn't me, and I'm not knocking anybody that did it, believe me. A lot of people did it. I just knew it wasn't what I wanted to do. I tried that. I tried it twice, and when I first did it, I was doing the pressing the shirt thing. And then I tried to do it at night so I'd be home through the day with my mom, and I'll never forget this. You had to put these collars that you put on shirts. You had to put the collars together. It was this big old machine, and you're literally laying the fabric down, it sewed it up. Boring as heck. And I did that for a little while. And I just knew that this isn't what I want to do, you know. And that old thing about, “You can do anything you want to do,” kind of came back in there. I'm like, “Okay, this is not what I want to do.” [laughs]

And so my friends had gone to college, were already in college, and so this would've been '74, and it was like “I have to do something. I have to get away from here.” Kinston is a—was a small little town that the powers that be didn't want to let black folks do a lot. And we knew that. And our parents were kind of—almost everybody I knew that I graduated from high school with, they went to college or they went in the military. They did not stay. Literally, they did not stay. Which was sad, but you know it was, “You got to get out of here.” So I just had to get out. It was, you know, I had to go. Those commercials, “See the world, blah, blah, blah,” were quite enticing. And I mean, you know, I figured, “What did I have to lose here?” So that really was it. There was no great moment. It was just, “Okay. I have to make a living. Let's do it.”

TS:

Well, you talked about some of the opposition. Who was it that was opposed to you going into the military?

HJY:

It was just like—

TS:

What did your parents think?

HJY:

My mother, she was always supportive, you know. It didn't matter. I probably told her if I wanted to jump across the moon, she'd probably say, “Okay, Jamane. If you think you can do that.” I'm not sure of my dad. But it would be other people that you just mention it to, you know, and [they'd say] “There's a bunch—Don't you know there's a bunch of gays and fags.” Actually, they weren't nice about it. “There are a bunch of fags out there,” or, you know, all this and that. And that had never dawned on me. I had never even thought about that until people started saying that to me. And, “Don't you know that's what they call women that go in the military?” I'm like, I had never heard this stuff. I told you, I was naïve is more like the correct term. I was very naïve. And I don't know. I'm kind of one of these people that if you tell me not to do something, I'm going to do it anyway, so that was kind of where it got to. But I mean it was just like guys that I knew that I had gone to high school with maybe, and they were like, “No, you don't want to do that. Don't you know this—.” I just couldn't believe how naïve or—I don't know what—I don't even know what it was.

TS:

Like a stereotype.

HJY:

Yeah, how they could've been so, you know. I was like, “Wow.” And it wasn't like that at all. But it was like unbelievable. Now here's the funny part. There was this young lady that I was talking to maybe four or five years ago. I had suggested the same thing to her. She's from a broken home, you know. She graduated from high school and didn't have any opportunities or whatever, and I suggested the military. That was the same thing she told me. All these years later, I couldn't believe it. And I'm telling her, I said, “But I went in there! Do I look like I'm gay to you?” You know, come on. And if I am, what difference does it make? You know, it was so weird. I couldn't believe it. And she was listening to people that she—[they] hadn't done crap, is what I was feeling. Hadn't done anything but stay here in Rockingham County or wherever, but she was listening to them. And I was like, you know, I could've been in that same situation, I guess. I kind of looked at it like—because she didn't go. And I was just so like, “Wow, man.” But yeah, so it was just—I don't know. People would just say things like that, you know, when I told them I was leaving.

“You're going to that? You're going to do—.”

“Yeah, I'm getting out of here.”

TS:

So what did you end up doing in the military?

HJY:

Well, when I first went in—When I went to school, I was supposed to go to work on the planes, avionics. No. Can't do that if you're not good at math. So I eventually ended up working in an office as a secretary in Fort Worth, Texas. Not bad.

TS:

What did you think of—when you went in the military, do you remember—Of course, basic training you went though. How was that? Was that a shock to you, or was it—what kind of feelings did you have?

HJY:

The only shock to me was it was hot as hell in San Antonio, Texas. [chuckles]

TS:

What month were you there?

HJY:

I was there July. It was hot. It was hot, and I didn't know that black people could tan until I went to San Antonio, Texas. I'm serious as a heart attack. I'll never forget.

TS:

You were at the beach!

HJY:

I didn't tan like that! I'm going to tell you, I called my mother and I told my mother, I said, “I got a tan.”

And she's like, “What?”

I said, “I have a tan.”

You know how that little shirt stops? From there down was another shade. And you know how that little stupid hat was, the little blue hat? From here down was another shade. Up there—I mean I was tan. I was dark, dark. I was like, “Oh, my god.” I didn't know black people tan at that time. I'm sorry. I didn't. My mother laughed so hard. I couldn't help it.

It was hot. It was really hot. But there were some cute guys. Man, there were some cute guys out there. I met a lot of guys from North Carolina that went in. I didn't know them. I did know—there was, actually, a guy that went to school with me. I saw him there. I didn't know he was going, and we ran into each other on the base. But I met a lot of guys from North Carolina that went in back then. And it was fantastic, because just because somebody says they're from North Carolina, you know, hey, that's just a good feeling. From home, North Carolina, okay, cool. But it was fun.

TS:

Yeah.

HJY:

And it was the first time I flew, and that was fun because it was—I didn't get afraid until I was on the plane, and I'm like, “Oh, my god. I'm flying.” I had never flown before. It was the very first time I ever flew was when I left Kinston and flew to San Antonio, Texas. Well, we rode a bus to Raleigh, and then from Raleigh to San Antonio. It was the first time I flew. First time I saw a ten gallon hat for real. So to me it was an adventure, and I think that's what people forget. To me, about life, it should be more of an adventure instead of all that stuff that we put on top of it. So it was really an adventure to me, and it was fun. I liked it. I really did. It was just fun.

TS:

How about the—when you got to the San Antonio and you're in Lackland [Air Force Base], right?

HJY:

Yes.

TS:

And you're in a room with all these other women, because it was just women, right?

HJY:

Yeah. And people start hollering at you?

TS:

Yeah. How was that? How did that go over? [laughter]

HJY:

They didn't intimidate me. They didn't scare me. I just kind of sat there like, “Okay. Whatever.” My drill instructor was nice. She was a short lady. She really didn't scream a lot, you know, and holler. She just was like, she told you what to do and you kind of did it thing, you know. I don't know what it was about her that made you just do it. She wasn't—you know, some people you just—it's nothing like you see on TV, like people are screaming and hollering. It wasn't for me, anyway. But she was just—I don't know. She was nice. And she just told us what to do and we did it to the best of our abilities, and that was about it. Now I must tell you, I did flunk—what is it? You know how you do those tests at the end, and they kept—there was this little threat that if you don't pass the test you'll get sent back and that kind of stuff.

TS:

From like the studying the booklets stuff?

HJY:

Yeah. And then we had to do the—when you walk around and salute thingies, the figures or something. And I flunked that. Do not ask me how I flunked that, but I did. I thought that was hilarious. “How could you flunk this, Jamane?” But I found out something about me. I think I found out something about me. I didn't like authority. I think that was it, I guess. So I had to do that again.

TS:

Did you have to go—Did you roll back or did you just have to take the test again?

HJY:

No, I just took the test again. Because it was so funny, because my friends who were there kept saying, “You can't—” and they always call you by your last name, right— “You can't. You can't go back. You don't want to go back. We'll help you.” And they were literally out there helping me. [chuckles] It was so funny. I'm like, I can't believe this. How do you flunk this? Come on. But I did. And then, of course, when we did it again, I passed. But it was funny.

TS:

Now what—so you went to—where did you say? Fort Worth? Fort Worth, Texas. Do you remember what your job title was?

HJY:

If there's such a thing as clerical admin[istration] or something like that.

TS:

So could you describe like a—when you got to your first duty station—like a typical day.

HJY:

Oh, geez. I wish I could remember actually the very first time I got there. A typical day was going to breakfast and eating or trying, attempting to eat the “shit on a shingle” stuff or whatever that stuff was. Still can't eat it. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. But you know what I'm talking about.

TS:

I think that a—

HJY:

What is that stuff? Chipped beef and something.

TS:

Yes, yes. I forget what it was called, too.

HJY:

I just didn't like it. I shouldn't have said what I said.

TS:

I think it's a pretty well known way to describe it, so.

HJY:

Yeah, it wasn't very enticing. And then the first day at work, I worked in an office, the budget and management office, and I think I was probably only female, seems like, and definitely only African American female in that office. My boss and I—It's so weird. I can remember his name, Sergeant Holt. [He] had been in Vietnam, and he—I think he was an alcoholic, and he would come to work and you could smell alcohol on him a little bit. But he was nice. I mean, he didn't flirt with me or anything like that. He was really nice, but you could tell he had problems. I'm not sure if he was married or what. But he was—It was fine. I mean, you know. From, what, 8:00 [a.m.] till 12:00 and then you did your work and then you go to lunch and then you come back, normal office hours, you know.

TS:

Where did you live at the time?

HJY:

I lived on base in the barracks or whatever you call those things.

TS:

Dorms.

HJY:

Dorms.

TS:

Barracks I think actually—

HJY:

Dorms, dorms.

TS:

Dorms for the air force, I think.

HJY:

Dorms. I don't know. It was like—There wasn't those barrel looking thingies, so I guess it's a dorm. I think it was co-ed. Was it? I think it was co-ed. Can't remember.

TS:

Did you have a roommate?

HJY:

I had a roommate. Was a girl, and she left. She moved off—I started to say off-campus. She moved off the base, and so then I had to room by myself. And I remember putting those two twin beds together and making this huge bed. [laughter] I thought that was cool, man. It was fun. I mean, after work you're on your own anyway. So we'd end up at the rec[reation] center or something. Met my husband in the air force at Fort Worth. I don't know, partying.

TS:

[chuckles] Did you—This is the only place you served, was at Fort Worth? Did you—Was there anything particularly hard physically that you had to do?

HJY:

Physically hard. The only thing I had to do physically hard to me was I joined the—I can't remember what they call them. You know, when people die and the drill, they send this drill team out.

TS:

Right.

HJY:

I forget what they call them.

TS:

Honor—the honor guard?

HJY:

Is it the honor guard maybe? Well, I decided that I wanted to do that. And so the only thing that was hard about my job in that was standing out in the sun [laughs] with a rifle trying to be at attention and not pass out from the heat. Because it can be hot out there. But, I mean, that was it. That was nothing hard. And now it reminds me, because people told me when they went in the army that they had to do all those—and I think the guys did it in the air force, too. They had to climb those things.

TS:

The obstacle course?

HJY:

Yeah. We didn't do that.

TS:

In basic training?

HJY:

Yeah. Did you do that?

TS:

Yes.

HJY:

We didn't do that. That is weird. See, I would've wanted to do that. We did not do that at all.

TS:

Well, you went in '74?

HJY:

I went in '74, and so I don't know what it was, maybe it changed afterwards, but we didn't do that. So that was what I was really looking forward to, obstacle course.

TS:

Well, you were really close to the time period when the all-volunteer force was starting, because I think that started in 1973, instead of the draft for the men, so they might not have had everything in place then.

HJY:

Yeah, yeah. But so no, we didn't get to do any of that. So I really didn't—it really wasn't hard, you know?

TS:

Did you face any kind of discrimination at all did you feel?

HJY:

I don't—I don't consciously think so. I don't know. There were a lot of black people on that base.

TS:

Well, even as a woman?

HJY:

No, was too busy trying to keep them away from me. [TS chuckles] There's nothing like being a woman on a base with a bunch of guys, and you're—ratio is not exactly a whole lot of women.

I didn't think so. I really didn't. I found that—I don't know what it was, but for some reason, if I didn't want to have—I don't know, I didn't want a boyfriend, that they became just my friend and they became that big brother that I didn't have. And so I found that there would be a lot more big brothers out there trying to protect my virtue than I probably wanted them to protect my virtue. [laughter] But that's kind of how it kind of seemed like, you know? I think they were just trying to keep other guys away. You know guys are like that. They don't want to admit it.

TS:

How about your relationship with your supervisors? How was that?

HJY:

It was fine. I had—it was fine. When I met my husband, I met the very first female, black female—I think she was a master sergeant. And she was over my husband's dorm, and she used to tell me, “You're going to be in trouble. You need to stay away from that man.”

TS:

Your husband?

HJY:

And I used to tell her, “Oh, no. He's okay. He's harmless.” He was. But he had his moments, and she knew more than I did. But no, other than being written up as being AWOL [Absent With Out Leave]—

TS:

What happened there?

HJY:

I was a good girl. My husband and I, at the time was my boyfriend, decided to go to—I had a friend, a friend of mine who was in charge of the honor guard. His wife's family lived in Little Rock, Arkansas, and so one weekend we decided to go to Little Rock, Arkansas, to meet her parents. The problem was we were on alert. The base was on alert, and nobody told me that you couldn't leave the base if it's on alert. And so we did, you know. And then when we got back, they really kind of—I mean it wasn't a big deal, but we knew about it. And I didn't get a—they didn't take a stripe and all this stuff. But they were, “You can't do that.” And I'm like, “Well, okay, but I didn't know.

TS:

Like a verbal—

HJY:

Yeah.

TS:

—sort of reprimand?

HJY:

Yeah. But I didn't know that I couldn't do this. So that was it. I was a good girl, but as far as good girls go—no, I'm just kidding.

TS:

Now what rank—What rank were you?

HJY:

First sergeant? Wait a minute. Airman first class?

TS:

Airman first class.

HJY:

Yeah.

TS:

How'd you like wearing the uniform?

HJY:

It was okay. I wasn't bad about the uniform. I'm telling you, my problem was this. [saluting] [laughter]

TS:

The saluting. She's doing the saluting.

HJY:

To this day, it is still saluting.

TS:

Have to get that elbow up.

HJY:

That was it. I couldn't get the—I just couldn't. I don't know. I don't know.

TS:

We'll work on it later.

HJY:

And even, you know, when you walk around the base, I would walk out of the way.

TS:

To avoid?

HJY:

Yes. So that's when I kind of think there was kind of something with me and authority.

TS:

Now did you have any—anybody that you thought was mentoring you in any way?

HJY:

No. It was—when I was in, I think because we were coming out of Vietnam, there was a lot of—people didn't know what was, I don't know, it was like they didn't know what to do kind of thing. And I think even more because there were so many women coming in at the same time, it was almost like, “What do we do with them?” kind of thing. Or maybe things just weren't in place to handle, you know, everything.

TS:

Now you're—what in the meantime, is your son—Where was your son at?

HJY:

He was in North Carolina.

TS:

And who's watching over him?

HJY:

His grandmother is watching him.

TS:

The grandmother that was taking care of him when you were in high school?

HJY:

Yeah.

TS:

And so is he—How did that work with the air force? Did you—just for people who don't understand.

HJY:

That was one of the things I had to—I didn't—it wasn't like I legally had to give him up, but he had to have a guardian. And she became the guardian, and he was little so I didn't think it was a bad thing at the time. I still don't think it was a bad thing, though, you know. I think you do what you have to do. I knew he was loved and being taken care of, so—and I think maybe that was I needed to grow up. I think I needed to have the childhood or the young adult part that I was—that I had missed. Because I think being the last child at home, it became my responsibility to take care of my mother a little bit, so there were a lot of things that I didn't get to do at fifteen and sixteen and seventeen that other kids may have gotten to do. And so when I left and went in the military, I got to just be a young adult, I think. And him not being with me, I just had the freedom. And I missed him and I always thought about him, but I knew in my heart that he was fine, and so it was okay. And I knew that it wasn't permanent kind of thing, so it was okay.

TS:

Well, how was—you had said you met your husband in the air force. We've talked about him a little bit. What's his name?

HJY:

His name is John.

TS:

John.

HJY:

Yes. He's from Louisville, Kentucky. You make me remember stuff that I probably forgot for years. I had gone out with this other guy who was his roommate, John's roommate, and he introduced me to John, and it was kind of like I dropped this other guy [laughs] and started talking to John. And I—it just happened. You ever just run into somebody where you can have a conversation and you just get along? That was kind of how it was. I didn't want to hear a bunch of bull. Don't tell me stuff that you can't—don't make promises to me that you can't keep, you know. I think I had built up a wall to protect myself, and so that was kind of how John and I were, you know. Just please don't lie to me. Don't give me—because you're not going to do it. I don't want to hear it. And I was honest about it, you know. And a lot of guys I think would try to talk to me, and I didn't want to—I just didn't want to hear it, you know. And I think my reasoning was that I still have to look out for my son. I have to protect him and stuff.

And that was one of the things that I told John when I first met him. I said I have a son; he's very, very important to me, and if that's going to be a problem for you, then you need to know now. And that was fine. If you can't handle that, it's fine. But my thing was that—and this may sound really corny, but I guess I didn't want anybody to come before my child, you know. And sometimes women have that, “I got to have a man,” kind of thing, and that wasn't exactly the top of my list. But John was [sighs] John. John was—is—was the baby of seven, so he was—we just got along. And I think that really we became friends before we became lovers or whatever. And I think that was better, you know. And I mean, I had my problems, I guess, and he had his problems, you know, but we just kind of liked each other. We got along with each other. And he was—when I met him, he had been—he had been a security police, and I think he got kicked off because he was a photographer by the time I met him. And the reason that he got kicked off—he'll probably say, “Why did you put that in there?”—was because he decided to shoot up a B-52 on the flight line.

I'm like, “John why would you do that?”

“I told them I didn't want to be out there.” So I'm telling you, John is quite a character.

TS:

How did he shoot it up?

HJY:

He took his rifle and shot at it! I said, “Didn't you realize this thing has bombs on it?”

And it was like, “Oh.”

I'm like, “Yeah. You could've blown yourself and everybody else up, Honey.”

I didn't know him then. I did not know him then. But I was—they told me this. The guys that [were] his roommates and stuff told me that he did that. So they kicked him off the security, so he was a photographer. He got to take crime scene photos and stuff like that. It's interesting.

TS:

So when did you decide to get married?

HJY:

Oh, well, let's see. I got—After I got out.

TS:

Now did you sign up for two years?

HJY:

I actually signed up for four. Stayed in—

TS:

Okay.

HJY:

I stayed in for a year and a half and then I went to the reserves. And so—and the reason why was I had problems with the grandmother. And she was trying to take my child, and that wasn't happening. So it was time to go. So I'm not sure why we got married at the time we got married. It might have been because I got out and I went to Kentucky and we were living with my mother-in-law-to-be and it was like, “You have to make this legitimate here,” kind of thing. It was like “Okay.” I mean—

TS:

It was your mother-in-law saying that?

HJY:

Yeah. Well, yeah. Sort of, yeah.

TS:

Future mother-in-law.

HJY:

Yeah. And you know you don't think about stuff sometimes, and I didn't think about that like that. I don't know why, I just didn't. Well, yes I do. Because John was married and he was waiting for his divorce to become final. And so once his divorce became final, we got married. So but at the time, I still didn't think about it. And my mother-in-law was kind of like, “Hold on. We're going to do it.” So we ended up getting married.

TS:

Do you think that you would've stayed in the military had you not had these issues going on?

HJY:

I think so. I really do. I really do. And I try not to be a person that's “coulda shoulda woulda”—

TS:

Right.

HJY:

—thing. I think I would've, and I actually wished I had stayed longer, but oh, well.

TS:

Life presents what it presents, right?

HJY:

You know what? Right. And I still got my benefits. I still got to buy my house, so I mean—

TS:

So you used the GI Bill—

HJY:

Yeah.

TS:

[unclear]

HJY:

I still got those.

TS:

Did you use that for school and all?

HJY:

Yeah.

TS:

Where did you go to school?

HJY:

I went to Jefferson Community College in Louisville.

TS:

Right on.

HJY:

Yeah, so I still got that even though I didn't stay as long. But as least they—I stayed long enough for that, I guess, at that time, because I think things changed afterwards, after that, too. But it was, I don't know, it was fun. To me it was fun. It was an adventure.

TS:

Did it influence your life at all do you think? Or have an influence on it?

HJY:

You know what, I've always been pretty open about people, and I think that might have had a lot to do with [it], that it didn't matter to me that I didn't know people when I went in, if that makes any sense. I was willing to learn new cultures, the whole nine yards. And so I think I've just—that doesn't—it didn't bother me, you know. A lot of people were afraid of learning somebody different or new, you know. That didn't bother me. And so I think I've kept that. I don't know what I, other than that, what I really learned about the military. I don't know.

TS:

Well, how about for patriotism? What do you feel about patriotism?

HJY:

Well, let me tell you this. They might have kicked me out if they had known that I don't like guns. Patriotic, yes. Until some certain president tells me because I don't like war that I'm not patriotic. Then we have a problem. But yeah, I guess. I'm not sure about that sometimes, you know. I don't know. I mean if I was still in the military and I had to go and fight, I would, you know. Or if I had to do something that I didn't believe in, I would. And merely because that would be my job and that was what I had signed up to do. Otherwise, I'm not sure.

I saw a lot of guys that came back from Vietnam when I was there at Fort Worth that were really screwed up, you know. And I used to talk to some of them, and their first thought, their first thing to me, was that “People don't want to hear this. They don't want to talk about this.” And I must admit, some of the stuff that they were telling me was not fun to listen to, but it made them feel better. And I just feel like—I felt like, how do you take somebody that's in a war one day, and set them down on the sidewalk the next day, and don't expect anything to be wrong? So these guys were drinking, were doing drugs, you know, and getting into trouble, and nobody was getting the connection at the time. “What's going on? Why are they doing this?”

There was this guy I met who told me he was a bombardier, you know. And I'll never forget him, because he was sitting near, he was telling me how they were shooting at him and stuff from the ground, right, and how he's, you know, shooting at this thing or whatever. And this guy was a total basket case, literally. And it was like nobody was doing anything about it. It was just the stuff like that that really, really bothered me and it made me question. It really did. So I don't know. Like I said, I wonder if I had stayed, if they would've probably kicked me out because they would've thought I was anti-American or something, because, I don't know, my views changed a little, just seeing—

I think that makes me—I guess that makes me want people to understand when they say we're going to war what it really means, you know. It's not this “We're going to go in and kick ass and everything's going to be okay,” because it's not. And I guess I just want people to understand that, to see that, because I saw some of what happened, and I mean, we see it now and it's hard. It's really, really hard. So I think more than anything was I got that out of it. More than anything else, I got that out of it.

I met some really nice people. And like I said, my friend that I still know to this day was in my—actually, she was in my sister flight. But I wish we could—I wish that we could all get together again. I do wish that. I wish we could somehow find each other just one more time to see, you know, what happened to us, and where we went, and all that kind of stuff.

TS:

That would be fun.

HJY:

It would be fun.

TS:

Yeah.

HJY:

I think it would. I don't know if that'll happen though.

TS:

[chuckles] Well, what do you think about—It's interesting that you were in at the tail end of Vietnam, and you have described some of the post traumatic type syndrome, I think, of the men that were in the military at the—that came from Vietnam. At the time, had you had any feelings about Vietnam or the war?

HJY:

Yes. They weren't good.

TS:

Even when you went in?

HJY:

Yeah. I watched—In high school, I watched Vietnam every night, because it was on television with Walter Cronkite. So I decided to do some research, and I wanted to know why we were in Vietnam to start with. And so I did as best I could at the time, you know, just encyclopedias and whatever to figure out, “Why are we there? What's going on?” Because you don't really know, except that we just—all of a sudden it was just there in our faces. And it was like, “Why are we here? What's going on here?” So as I'm reading and trying to figure out, “Okay, this is what we're doing here,” I was fine except that I'm a firm believer that you cannot kill something with guns. You can't kill communism with guns. You can't kill a theory or an idea. You know what I'm saying? You can't fight that with a gun. That was what I got out of that. You know, hello? That's like saying, “We're going to end racism with a gun.” I mean, that doesn't work. So I guess that's what I really got out of it was, “How are we going to do this?” How did they think they were going to do this? You can't kill an idea with a gun or a bomb, you know, because just like what we're about to go—what we're going through right now—they just keep growing up with the same idea.

So I don't know. I think I'm patriotic. I believe in America. I think that we should think about what we're doing sometimes. And I think we should also think about what we're doing to other countries in the name of America. Because some people don't like us, you know. I really wonder sometimes. I thought about that myself. If my ideas were really known, they would probably not have liked me or wanted me in the military, because like I said, I really don't like guns. And other than being on the drill team, I never had to touch a gun, never. So I couldn't—I would not have been a good security police.

I don't know. It was an end to a means. It really was. I'm glad I had the chance to do it. I met some nice people. I did learn. I think it was a growing up process for me, too. I was—My husband told me I was very na´ve, and I probably was. Small town, you know, small town, U.S.A. You don't see a lot. It was learning. I learned. I learned about people, you know, which was cool. I remember when gas was forty cents a gallon. When I went to Texas, that's exactly what it was, forty cents a gallon.

TS:

You had to bring that up.

HJY:

I'm sorry. [TS laughs] I mean it's amazing.

TS:

We're talking today when it's like $3.59.

HJY:

It's $3.50, $3.47 or something. It's crazy. I just think every person who doesn't exactly know what they want to do, and if they're not going to go to college, then it's a good option. It was one of the things that I told my son when he graduated from high school. Actually, he had three choices. “You either go to college, you go in the military, or you get a job. Any of the three is fine with me.” And I come to find out that he actually did try to get in the military, and this would've been in '91, so that was what, Iraq? The first Iraq war.

TS:

Yeah the Gulf War.

HJY:

He tried to get in, and they wouldn't accept him because he has asthma. And I didn't know this for months. And one of his buddies went in, and it's when they were all over and they were talking about it, and he's like, “Oh yeah, Mom, I tried,”

I'm like, “Well, thanks for telling me. What were you going to do, wait till they ship you out or something?” So he ended up going to college.

But I think it's a good learning experience. Especially for young men who may not know, you know, what they want to do. And I shouldn't just say that. It's a good experience for women. I think you just have to get beyond this quote-unquote stereotype that people want to put on it. There are a lot of women in the military and been in there for years now. It's not bad.

TS:

What do you think about some of the jobs they're doing now?

HJY:

I think it's great. I wanted to fly a plane. They wouldn't even let me fly a plane back then. I think it's great. I really do. I mean I am not one for combat, so they wouldn't have to worry about me wanting to go to combat. But I think it's great, because they really did open up a lot more to women than they did when I went in. They really have, which is good. You know, I think it's great. I really believe that we can do just about any job out there, you know, if you give us the training and the chance. I do believe that. And so I'm really glad that they did. And I think they've shown that they can do it.

TS:

Absolutely. So, is there any advice that you would give to—I don't know if you have a daughter or not.

HJY:

No. I have one child.

TS:

If you had a daughter, would you say the same thing to her that you said to your son?

HJY:

My son, yeah. First of all, I was trying to keep her from getting pregnant. [laughter] But yeah, I would. If she didn't—If she really couldn't figure out whether she wanted to go to college or whatever or wasn't ready, I would tell her the same thing. “You can go in the military.” I don't think it hurts anybody. I mean, it doesn't, you know—It's what you make of it. I really believe that, you know. If you go in and—like I could've gone in and said, “I'm not going to listen to these people. I'm going to do things my way, blah, blah, blah.” Then of course I was going to have a—It ain't going to work. That's not the way it works. I went in with the attitude that, “Okay, I need to do this,” first of all. And what did I have to lose? Six weeks of whatever and then you're on your own. You go and do your thing.

I actually had this young lady that really kind of freaked out about basic training and dropped out, which I thought was crazy. Hello. This is only for six weeks guys, come on. But, you know, to each his own. So I would gladly tell, if I had a daughter, granddaughter, nieces, yes, go. And I actually tried to get my niece to go, and I'm not sure about her. But yeah, I think it has a lot to offer. It really does and, you know, just the thought that you can go and do your time, and you can still come out and go to school, or you can go to school while you're there. I mean, for some people, that's a good thing. Some people really cannot afford college, and as much as it costs nowadays, you know. So that's a good thing. I would definitely recommend it to another female. Yeah, it was fun.

TS:

Well, we've certainly covered a lot. Is there—

HJY:

Yeah, I know. It's like, whew, spent a lot of time here.

TS:

No, you've done great! Now is there anything that we haven't covered that you want to add?

HJY:

Not really. Oh, there's one thing, and this is kind of corny. So I was thinking about this the other day, too. I remember I said something about how people were telling you about the gays and stuff in the military. I met more gay men than I met females when I was in the military. But it was like undercover or whatever, you know. Everybody knew it, but nobody said anything kind of thing. Which was kind of that was the way it was, and it didn't bother me. It doesn't bother you, you know. I just don't understand the big deal about it. But, you know. No, just do it. If that's what you want to do, go do it. My sister-in-law went in, and I had to talk her into going. After I got out, my sister-in-law went in the army. And she had just gotten through a divorce and whatever, and she had always wanted to go. Her brothers, who had been in the military, told her not to. When John and I moved back to Kentucky, she was there. And we told her, “If this is what you want to do, go do it.” And she did and loved it. So, you know, it's a weird thing. I don't understand it. I haven't figured that one out yet. But yeah, I think any woman who wants to should go.

TS:

Okay.

HJY:

I really do.

TS:

Well, excellent. Anything else you'd like to add?

HJY:

No.

TS:

Well, thank you so much—

HJY:

Thank you.

TS:

—for coming and talking with me today. I really appreciate it.

HJY:

You made me feel better.

[End of Interview]