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“You did not talk about it. You just went on with your life,” says Vietnam-era veteran

Nov 7, 2017

Veteran Kathy Hay
Credit Courtesy of Kathy Hay

One of the most profound and moving ways to observe Veteran's Day is to hear veterans share their stories.

That’s happening Wednesday, Nov. 8 at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium as part of Stories of Service: An Evening With Veterans. During the event, six veterans will share stories of service ranging from World War II to Afghanistan. It’s a celebration of vets, their families, and their friends.

Kathy Hay will share her story on Wednesday. She served stateside in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era and then became one of the first uniformed female officers in the Ann Arbor Police Department.

Listen above, or read highlights below.

On why she did not talk about her service

“People tended to group the police department with the military because the police department was often sent out on protests. I, at that time, was assigned to work the football games at the Michigan stadium. And, for the most part, you sat with your back to the crowd. And we got pelted with everything you could possibly imagine – not things to hurt us, but things to sort of insult us. And I got hit with a bologna sandwich full of mayonnaise that slid down the back of my jacket. I was getting it out of my hair and my jacket for days afterwards."

“I did not tell people that I had been in the service. In fact, when I became a police officer, as recently as last month, cops that I rode with did not know I had been in the service. You did not talk about it. You just went on with your life. That’s all."

On a policewoman’s uniform at the time

“... initially we were in a short tight skirt, nylons, heals, and a bobby hat. Now you just try doing the same job as the guys do wearing that outfit.”

“I was the one on the midnight shift. And when you’re in a short, tight skirt and you slide over a vinyl seat in the middle of the winter, it’s going to wake you up no matter how much sleep you got that day. And so I just went down to the uniform store and bought a pair of men’s uniform pants and wore them to work thinking no one would notice. And I was wrong.”

On why Fisher House Michigan matters to Hay

“[Fisher Houses] provide housing for military families while their loved ones are being treated at a VA hospital or a military facility.”

“I was fortunate when my son was in the VA hospital. I lived close enough I could drive anytime to see him. I never saw another family member of a patient there. They all lived too far away. And so this is my passion. Fisher Houses are all over the country, except in Michigan.”

Kathy Hay is on Fisher House Michigan's board of directors. There's a Fisher House in the works for Ann Arbor, and they're currently looking for a location in Detroit.

Listen above to hear more of Hay’s story, including how her son passed, and why joining the service altered the course of her life.

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