Reflections from Broome County
Women in Uniform the 1960s
My Town is proud of all the brave active duty service personnel and veterans who have served our country. Amongst these veterans we salute is American Legion New York’s past Sixth District Commander Barbara Beebe who sat down with me and reflected on how different it was for women recruits back in 1962, the year she enlisted.
Back in 1962, as part of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act there was still a cap on how many women were allowed into the military with only 2 percent permitted into the enlisted forces.
Barbara was determined to be one of them.
“I climbed 12 flights of stairs to get to the Syracuse recruiting office and once there he told me I had to get the permission of my parents in order to join as I was a woman under the age of 20. That’s the way it was back then with the military” said Beebe.
After being sworn in Barbara went to Basic Training in Lackland AFB Texas where the women in her flight were trained and educated separately from the men. Upon graduation she was assigned to McGuire Air Force Base where she worked at the Passenger Service Terminal.
Although her duties were the same as her male counterparts her uniform was not. She was required to wear a blue cotton button up shirt and button up denim skirt that she said had so much starch by mandate that when she
was brazed by a vehicle it left a dent in her skirt.
Barbara loved everything about being in the military expect “having to march”.
But when she met her husband Ray and later became pregnant with their first child she was honorably discharged as the military premise at the time was that being a mother took priority over a woman’s military career.
“The military is still very much a part of my life still” added Barbara.
In fact amongst her honors is that Barbara was the recipient of the USAFE award for her volunteer service as a Red Cross Chair of Volunteers and Caseworker and has received the American Legion Department of New York’s Award of Excellence. She and her husband have also been recognized for their work on “Veterans Serving Veterans”, delivering meals to veterans through Meals on Wheels, as well as receiving Broome County’s Veterans of Distinction Award and the 204th’s highest award, the Order of the Castle, for their support during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. And Barbara is a Chaplain who proudly attends funeral services and honors those who have served.