The most recent Old Glory Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. included a 95-year-old Waupaca woman who served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.
Nona Hagen served in the corps for about 2 1/2 years.
On May 8, she was one of two women veterans on the flight.
A total of 80 veterans made the trip. Eighteen of them were World War II veterans and the rest were Korean War veterans.
“It was just unbelievable. It was a great trip,” said Hagen, who will turn 96 on July 5.
Hagen grew up on a farm in Mount Vernon, Wis.
She was living in Verona at the time she filled out an application to join the Women’s Army Corps.
“There was an advertisement in a magazine,” she said. “It just sounded like a good adventure. I didn’t have anything holding me back. I wasn’t married.”
Hagen’s husband-to-be, Arthur, was serving in the U.S. Army at the time.
Shortly after filling out the application and mailing it, Hagen was contacted.
“I was one of the first to go in. I had Basic Training in Des Moines,” she said.
She started the six-weeks of Basic Training in January of 1942.
“It was cold. Then they had the January thaw, and it was muddy,” Hagen said.
She remembers being issued a man’s overcoat, four-buckle overshoes and a woolen hockey cap and doing march and drill exercises.
There were 150 women in her company.
“We had inspections every morning. We had to have our beds made and our clothes up in a certain order,” she said.
After Basic Training, Hagen transferred to Fort Mason in San Francisco.
“And that was nice,” she said. “I worked in the office. It was called Special Orders. If a man was taking leave or being transferred, it went through the office. It was office work, mostly typing.”
Arthur was drafted into the war in 1941. After being hit by shrapnel in New Guinea, his spleen was removed in a field hospital.
The shrapnel shattered two of his ribs and also the bone in his upper left arm. That arm ended up being three inches shorter.
After he was injured, Hagen received orders to go to Paris. “I had to pass on that,” she said.
Arthur returned to the United States and eventually went to barber school on the GI Bill.
Hagen served in the Women’s Army Corps for 2 1/2 years. Her husband joined her there during her last several months.
“We got a room in a private home. We lived off base,” she said. “I had a good job.”
The couple had six children: Dale, Phil, Howard, Susan, Julie and Merilee.
Arthur was originally from Rosholt but then moved to Verona. That is where the couple met.
He had a barbershop in Verona, and the couple moved to Waupaca in 1973, when he took a job in the barbershop at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King.
Arthur passed away in July of 2005.
About six months ago, Hagen’s daughter, Merilee, sent in an application for Hagen to go on an Old Glory Honor Flight.
Family members wanted her to make the trip, because she is a World War II veteran.
They learned about six weeks ago that she would be on the May 8 trip.
Hagen’s daughter, Julie, was her guardian for the trip.
They left Waupaca around 4:30 a.m. that day for the flight out of Outagamie County Regional Airport.
“Every place we went, people would clap and say, “Thank you for your service,’” Julie said of the day.
They visited memorials, including the World War II Memorial, where Hagen was singled out to participate in a special wreath ceremony.
“It was a great trip,” Hagen said. “I had a great homecoming. A lot of family were there.”
Hagen has 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Many welcomed her home.
What Hagen liked most about the trip was the mail call she received during her flight back to Wisconsin.
“I got lots of cards. People remembered. It was great,” she said.
Her daughter was honored to accompany her on the trip and encourages other veterans to consider going on the flight.