FORT BLISS, Texas (1/29/2013) - When you first meet Bessie Dodd,
you notice even at 87 years of age, she has a fire in her eyes. Dodd
was raised in Pinedale, Wyo., located in a valley an hour south of
Jackson Hole and east of the Teton mountain range. Her family
relocated to Denver due to an aunt's death in childbirth.
January 25, 2013 - Red Cross volunteer Bessie Dodd of Pinedale,
Wyo., enlisted in the Women's Army Corps in 1944. She was one of the
first to arrive in Bremen, Germany after World War II ceased in
Europe. Dodd returned to the U.S. and began residing in El Paso
after 1968. She began volunteering with the Red Cross in 1973. In
1978, Dodd began the Office of Patient Advocacy at William Beaumont
Army Medical Center, Fort Bliss, Texas. She is still volunteering
there after 45 years. Photo by Army Sgt. Barry St. Clair
Dodd returned to Pinedale three years later to finish high school
and graduate from there. Dodd loved to swim, and one of the trail
guides donated a day camp trip on horseback up to one of the four
lakes in the region to the graduating class.
graduation from high school, Dodd moved to Seattle to assist another
aunt in business. She enjoyed her work with the company there so
much, she decided to enter business school, and returned to Denver
to do so.
In 1944, Dodd had to have her father sign for her
to enlist in the Women's Army Corp, since she was not quite 20 years
old yet. Dodd had been taking flying lessons and wanted to join the
Women's in the Air Force, but her parents did not think it
appropriate for a woman to pursue that career field.
“I went to basic training at Des Moines, Iowa, and then spent my
first year working in the Pentagon tracking air force units,” said
Dodd. “We did the same training the men did.”
On July 4, 1945 Dodd was aboard the Queen Elisabeth when she set
sail for Greenwich Scotland with the first group of WACs bound for
Germany after WWII ended in Europe on May 7, 1945.
They traveled by train to South Hampton, England where they
boarded a troop ship to cross the English Channel.
“They shot at mines [in the water] all the way across the
channel,” Dodd said. “We arrived at tent city in Combien,
France outside of Paris, and then were flown to Bremen,
Dodd and a girlfriend worked as information
administrators, working with NATO forces and mostly
intelligence operatives to process all the people flowing
through Bremen from Berlin.
“When I arrived in Bremen, there were only three
major streets open,” said Dodd. They were still removing bodies from
the rubble. We worked out of a building that had been the [German]
SS headquarters. It was the only building for six or eight blocks in
any direction that had not been destroyed. Only the top floor of the
plush building was damaged.”
“Every place we went, we flew or
went by truck under armed guard,” Dodd continued. “We were not
allowed to walk on the sidewalk, or go anywhere alone. In any case,
there was no place to go and not many streets that were clear.”
Soon the decision was made to move the WAC Company north to
Frankfurt. Dodd had decided to marry a soldier instead, and was
discharged from the Army. She continued to serve as an information
administrative assistant until her husband and her returned to the
States in 1946.
Following a couple of tours to Taiwan as an
Army advisor on missile technology, the Dodds returned to Fort Bliss
to stay in 1973. Since that time, Dodd has been volunteering with
the Red Cross at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
began down the hill in the old hospital,” said Dodd. “The
construction of the new facility was underway by then.”
began a new venture in 1978 that she continues to fill to the
present time. That is Patient Advocacy Office, begun under head
nurse Ruth Wilson. In the 45 years since, Dodd, and her office have
provided information to patients, assisted them in getting to the
services they needed, and gathered information from all the clinics
here to develop hospital policies.
The Red Cross volunteers
also staff the information desk on the third floor near the
emergency room entrance, guiding patients, developing hospital
service directories, and managing information.
“You meet many
people – many different people; and we began to develop programs
based on the information we received from patients,” said Dodd.
“Hospital policies were developed from the information we gathered
and processed from the patients. We try to get information out to
patients to make them more satisfied with the services they are
getting. We are constantly developing brochures and such.”
Dodd has volunteered at the Information desk, as well as continuing
to staff the Patient Advocacy Office.
Dodd still enjoys
camping and RVing to this day. She plans to continue voluntary
service with the Red Cross at WBAMC.
“I plan to continue as
long as I feel useful and productive, and as long as my husband's
health holds,” said Dodd.
By Army Sgt. Barry St. Clair
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