Women in the Military

Mary Knevel (1911-2008) Mary Knevel became a United States Navy nurse and a reserve-active duty ensign in 1943. Knevel had the opportunity to board American, British, and Russian vessels but spent the greater part of her enlistment caring for soldiers in the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in North Chicago tending the sick and wounded who were flown there from the islands. Knevel described the hospital ward she worked in as a “sea of beds,” and it brought the horrors of war to her, personally. She recalled one 17-year old marine who screamed in terror at the sound of a pencil dropping to the floor. She said, “I came to find that mental pain can be just as great as physical pain and much more difficult to alleviate. This revelation led her to specialize in psychological problems. Upon leaving the service to be married, Knevel returned to work at the Veterans Hospital in St. Cloud where she was Associate Chief of Nursing Education from 1945 to 1969. In addition, in 1955, she became an instructor at St. Cloud Hospital School of Nursing. During her career, Knevel worked to improve care for patients and to improve working conditions for nurses. She said, “a nurse is a caretaker with knowledge.” As a teacher, she emphasized to her students the satisfaction of preserving St. Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1932. Over her 95-year lifespan, Knevel spent 31 years at the St. Clod VA, and 55 years in nursing. She and fellow employees received national recognition at the American Psychological Association in Boston and the American Psychiatric Association in Washington D.C for an exhibit on the history of psychiatric care they at the St. Cloud V.A. Knevel remembers a visit from Eleanor Roosevelt to St. Cloud. She said, “Eleanor had learned that we had the oldest patient in VA system: one hundred plus years. He had been a drummer boy in the Civil War. She wished to meet him.” Knevel called Mrs. Roosevelt a gracious First Lady. Mary (Obsorne) Knevel married Archie Bisenius in 1945 and Harry Knevel in 1987. 

Amy Lynn Erickson (1974-) When she was a high school junior, a male classmate bet Amy Erickson that she would never survive the United States Army’s basic training. Erickson enlisted in the Army in her junior year, and nine days after graduating from high school in 1992, entered the service, where she not only survived the rigors of basic training, but chose to make the Army her career. Now 33, and married to a fellow solider, Erickson and her husband, Thomas, have three children: Nichole, 11; Brittney, 10; and Daniel, eight. Erickson is a staff sergeant in the Army Reserves, assigned to Headquarters, 367th Engineer Battalion, in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Staff Sergeant Erickson was born in Sauk City, Wisconsin, the daughter of Philip and Audrey Platt. Erickson completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Her company was the first all-female unit to complete training at that facility. From Missouri, Erickson spent eight weeks at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, where she completed a course in human resources, the focus of her specialty to this day. While serving in Madison, Wisconsin, Erickson was named “Brigade Soldier of Year,” and received a Governor’s Award, one of 50 given by Wisconsin chief of state. Erickson’s proudest moments as a career reservist came about in a 13-month assignment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There, Erickson was in charge of the records of 1200 personnel. She is most proud of her role as executive assistant to the commanding general under whose command she arranged five victory dinners for departing units. For her service in Cuba she received a Joint Service Achievement Medal. Sergeant Erickson is also the recipient of the following rewards: Army Service Ribbon; National Defense Service Medal-1; Army Component Achievement Medal-1; Army Component Achievement Medal-2; Army Component Achievement Medal-3; Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon-1; Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon-2; Army Achievement Medal-1; National Defense Service Medal-2, Joint Service Achievement Medal “M” -1; Armed Forces Reserve Medal; Joint Meritorious Unit Award; NCO Professional Deployment Ribbon-3; Army Component Achievement Medals-4; Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon-3; Global War on Terrorism Service-1; and Global War on Terrorism Exp. Medal

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