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Time in service source of pride for Phipps

11/19/2012

By RACHAEL GRAY

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

At 90 years old, Margaret "Peggy" Phipps has lost many friends and family in her lifetime.

But something she hasn't lost is her patriotism and pride in being a U.S. Army veteran.

Phipps served two-and-a-half years in the Women's Army Corps during World War II. She was stationed in Fort Francis E. Warren in Wyoming to prepare soldiers for overseas tours.

Most of those soldiers were stationed in the Pacific.

She spent 16 months there getting soldiers' records ready to go overseas. She made sure their shots were up-to-date, they had the correct pay scale and allotment and their wills were in order.

She then received orders to serve at Camp Carson, which is now Fort Carson, Colo.

Phipps wanted to go overseas and be stationed in Australia like some of the WAC women, but was ordered to stay stateside.

It was an order that would change the rest of her life.

There, she met William "Lyle" Phipps. The two were married for 48 years before he died in 1993.

"We met there. He had his car there. Gas was rationed, so we couldn't just go out and take a drive, but we did start dating. Five months later, we were married," she said.

Phipps said she didn't get to travel overseas, but she met her husband instead.

"I was so disappointed. I thought I was going to get to go to Australia. But it turned out to be a special thing, being there," she said.

Upon her discharge, Phipps was a staff sergeant. Lyle was a master sergeant.

Phipps, a native of Pittsburgh, joined the WAC to serve her country.

Her father was a World War I veteran. Her younger sister was too young to join the WAC, and her older sister was already married.

On a trip to Georgia to visit a friend, she learned about the Navy WAVES, or the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

"I was fascinated. They told me the WAVES uniform was more attractive than the WAC one. But I wasn't interested in the uniform. I was interested in the travel," she said.

Phipps joined WAC when she was 21. She spent two months at basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. She began her duty on Oct. 13, 1943.

"We marched, and drilled and took classes. We had the rules and regulations of Army life," she said.

Phipps said she was trained to almost be a soldier.

"We did everything but shoot a gun," she said.

While stationed at Camp Carson, Phipps did the opposite of her duties at Fort Francis E. Warren.

There, she helped soldiers coming home from the war. Many had been prisoners of war in Japan.

"One boy I know of survived the Bataan Death March. These boys were not in very good physical condition," she said.

Phipps said the work was hard.

"I often laugh and say, 'The hours were long, the work was hard and the pay was lousy.' But I liked it. I really did. I met many lifetime friends," she said.

After Phipps was discharged, her husband was discharged shortly afterwards. They came back to Garden City, where Lyle had lived his whole life.

She often looks back on her time in the service with pride and joy.

Phipps said qualities that the Army instilled in her are still apparent today.

"There are just qualities that stay with you," she said.

Phipps has been honored for her service. She went on a Veterans Honor Flight to Washington D.C. to see the WWII monument.

On Nov. 10, Phipps was to be the parade marshal of the 2012 Veterans Day Parade, which was canceled due to high winds.

Phipps said she recommends the service.

"I would say I recommend it. I think it's training you really can't get anywhere else," she said.

Serving in the military created bonds with others that can't be substituted, she said.

"It was there I married my husband. If he were living, we would still be together. I still miss him," she said.

Phipps wasn't allowed to wear flowers on her uniform but was allowed to for her wedding.

Meeting her husband and helping the soldiers are her two favorite memories of being in the service.

"I don't regret for one minute, one minute, my service," she said.

"If I helped just one boy, just one boy, and made his life a little easier or helped him in any way, I feel like the long, hard work, that it was worth it," she said.

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