ENGLEWOOD — Georgianna Lingar asked eighth graders to raise their hands if they could run five miles.
None went up.
“You know what happened if you couldn’t run five miles?” she asked. “You would have to scrub the floors with a toothbrush until you could learn how to run the five miles in Alabama. That’s what happened from day one when I joined the Army. If you wore glasses or contacts, they would bring you out to the middle of the woods and take away your glasses and make you find your way out with a compass.”
Lingar told a group of LA Ainger Middle School eighth-grade history students Thursday that she crawled under barbed wire, threw grenades and maneuvered through a gas chamber with no mask. “I would do it again if I had the chance,” she said. “I have no regrets. It’s a very proud profession.”
Dorothy Carter, didn’t let severe dyslexia stop her from joining the Army.
“My neighbor who was older than I was joined the Army,” she said. “I was from a village in Cape Cod of 350. We all knew each other. I thought I would join the Navy and go find my neighbor. He didn’t make it. He always wanted to go to New York and Washington, D.C. I went to the Vietnam Wall (replica in Punta Gorda) and took a rubbing of his name and brought it to New York. In the spring, I’m going to take him to Washington, D.C.”
Carter, who is one of the featured veterans in a book “Memories of War. Women’s stories of Sacrifice and War,” said being dyslexic meant she had problems marching in step.
“They put me in the surgical intensive care unit in Vietnam,” she said. “I was 20 years old and was doing (tracheostomies) in wounded soldiers. I was doing minor surgery. I went home and cried.”
Carter later tried to join veterans organizations, but many were for men only. She discovered the Vietnam Veterans Of America Chapter 1037 and joined. She also became a member of the Disabled Veterans of America.
Francis Herres, 96, was a turret gunner in a B-24 Liberator during World War II. He was stationed in Italy in the Air Corps. He flew 48 missions and was shot down twice. The second time he crash-landed and was quickly surrounded by peasants and the militia.
“I was thrown into a hay wagon pulled by oxen,” he said. “I realized I was a prisoner of war. I was given a piece of bread by the Romanians, which had to last the entire day. Then I was given cabbage soup at night.”
When Herres was released and returned home four years later, a woman yelled at him.
“She said ‘why aren’t you in the military, my son is in the military,’” he said. “I just kept my mouth shut. People didn’t know I had been a POW for four years. I couldn’t tell anyone.”
The Vietnam Wall Education Foundation is paying for a field trip for all eighth-graders to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall replica in Punta Gorda. Students can ask questions of the vets, see tanks and learn about the fallen soldiers.
The Vietnam Veterans of America meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of the month at the American Legion Post 110, 3152 Harbor Blvd., Port Charlotte. New members are welcome.