In our hallways, bedrooms and dining rooms, we have people who have unselfishly served in the U.S. Armed Forces. As young people, they left the familiarity of their hometowns and created their own piece of history.

When I first met 93-year-old Vivian, she was sitting erect in her wheelchair, shoulders squared with her body “at attention.” Her snow white hair framed her face and her strikingly blue eyes glared at me. 

“May I call you Vivian?” I inquired. 

“You may call me Colonel,” she answered stoically with a measure of authority I had not seen before.

I answered solemnly, “Thank you, Colonel.” 

Vivian has been with us for two years and is simply referred to as “The Colonel” by staff and her family, a title that is respectfully due her.  

During the 1930s, a young woman would have to “prove herself” by attending a college at home during her freshman year, The Colonel explained to me with her assertive southern drawl. “After my freshman year, I transferred to university, where I received my bachelor’s degree. Then I completed my post-graduate work in dietary science.” 

I was completely amazed by the maverick, as she continued: “I wanted to join the military and serve my country. The Navy put me in Texas and was going to leave me there. I would not have that. I wanted to see the world, but they wanted me to stay in the States.” 

After negotiations, she changed Armed Forces and became a career Colonel in the Army. She served the United States during World War II and until she retired. “I wanted to be treated as an equal with men and serve on the war front,” she reflected.  

“Thank you, Colonel, for being brave and a forerunner for women,” I gratefully stated. “It’s an honor to know you.” 

“You’re welcome, Ma’am,” replied The Colonel.  I am sure that I saw her blue eyes display a sparkle and the corner of her mouths point upwards with a hint of a smile.  

During the Annual Hat Parade, while other residents donned their straw hats, bonnets, golf hats and visors, The Colonel wore her tattered Army helmet that she wore on the battlefield. 

I salute you, Colonel!

Teri Weiman, SSD-AD, is a social services designee and activity directory in a central California skilled nursing facility. She oversees 80+ volunteers, supervises 11 activity aides and has two amazing assistants. She has learned that all long-term care residents have valuable attributes and can teach a lot about life … which she will share here. An early riser and eternal optimist, she lives by the saying Carpe Diem.