WARREN - Eileen Blaney said she always felt as though her family was watched over during the time they served in the U.S. Army.
"I was in when Cuba and Russia were setting up the missiles. It was scary because you didn't know if you were going to get into it or not," she said.
Blaney signed up for the Army in 1962 when she was 20 years old, shortly after her brother and his friends got drafted.
Tribune Chronicle / Bonnie L. Hazen
Eileen Blaney, 72, looks over old photos and documents from the time she served in the U.S. Army.
"I was lonesome. I was ready to get out and see the world. Plus, I couldn't find a job. I was tired of not having any money," she said. "My parents weren't real happy. My dad wasn't very happy."
She recalled the social stigma usually applied to females going into the military.
"They always give you this lousy reputation. The guys at work told my dad, 'You have a good girl going in, she'll be a good girl coming out,'" the Warren woman recalled.
Editor's note: This is part of a weekly series published each Monday between Memorial Day and Veterans Day honoring local veterans.
SERVICE: U.S. Army
FAMILY: Second husband, John Blaney, who served in the U.S. Army on Bikini Island; daughter, Chayo, who served in the U.S. Army Reserves for six years; stepson, Brian Blaney, who served in the U.S. Navy.
She boarded the plane in Cleveland with a fellow recruit, not realizing at the time that the other woman would one day become her sister-in-law.
"We really hit it off. Erika and I did our basic training together; we worked together as a team," she said. "I took her home with me when I finished basic training. My brother liked German girls and they hit it off real good. He was in (the Army) the whole time she was, so they kept in contact the whole time."
Blaney said the basic training she and her friend went through is quite different than the training women in the military experience now.
"It was kind of tough. We didn't go through the training that they do now. Ours was more clerical. We had to run five miles, we did a lot of marching, we did the rifle range. They go through regular basic training now. I'm not too sure if I could do that.
''Running five miles was a killer, I thought," she said. "Basic training was fun. I didn't whine - my dad was so set against me going, I didn't dare whine! I just think our girls now are pretty tough little girls."
Blaney said she was fortunate not to have been in the line of fire. Her duties keeping her within the United States.
"I would have gone (to war). If you're told to go, you go. I'd probably be like the rest of these kids, scared to death. We were lucky," she said.
However, Blaney said she was happy to have seen three states in the year that she served, having been to Fort McClellan, Fort Meade and Fort Jackson. She also was a member of the Signal Corps.
She was discharged in March 1963 due to pregnancy. After having her daughter, Chayo, she decided not to go back.
"It would have been too hard to leave my baby. The women who leave their babies and go off to battle are tough women," she said.
Years later, her daughter decided to follow in her mother's footsteps.
"She came home and said, 'I think I'll join the Army.' And I said, 'Well, OK,' and off to Alabama she went. She was between junior and senior in high school when she did her basic training," Blaney said.
Chayo was in the U.S. Army Reserves for six years and was fortunate to not see war during that time. Blaney said she wasn't afraid for her safety.
"I had been there, so I was like, OK. About the most combat she had was she drove the commanding officer out here in a jeep, and she wasn't very good at it. But she was the only one who knew how to drive stick. That was pretty funny," she said with a chuckle.
Blaney's second husband, John, also served in the Army, but she didn't know him when he was in the service.
"He was in for a year also, and that was at the end of the war. They were testing the A-bombs and it was on Bikini Island. They didn't know anything about the radiation, and they were standing behind shields thinking they were protected. It didn't do him any harm, but he did have buddies that were really messed up from the radiation," she said.
Blaney said if she had conceived her daughter in recent years, she may have changed her mind about letting her sign up for the military.
"I would think I'd have to talk her out of it. I don't want her over there getting shot at," she said.
Blaney's daughter is now married with a daughter of her own, and Blaney said her family was lucky to have served at just the right time.
"Even now, if somebody would ask me what my service number is, I could give it to them," she said.