Still serving her brothers in arms

USAF veteran Violet Wagoner continues helping other vets

Violet Wagoner
Violet Wagoner

Look up the word “hero” in the dictionary and you would find many pictures. And Violet Wagoner’s picture would be one of them.

The 82-year-old Oak Park Heights resident served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1953 during the Korean Conflict. But Wagoner continued to serve her fellow veterans through the years. She belongs to numerous veterans’ organizations and served eight years on the state Veterans Home Board, first appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura and re-appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“I also volunteered at the VA Hospital for 22 years,” she said. “I also volunteer at the Veterans Home in Hastings.”

Wagoner and two other women veterans will ride in the Bayport Memorial Day Parade that starts at 8:30 a.m. Monday. The parade grand marshal is Richard “Pork Chop” Peterson, a 40-year member of the Hesley Jensen American Legion Post No. 491, former club manager and 1996 “Legionnaire of the Year.”

Wagoner said she joined the Air Force for economic reasons and at a friend’s recommendation.

“I was originally from Massachusetts,” she said. “There weren’t many jobs at the time and my father took ill and all our money went to his sickness.”

Wagoner was stationed at Samson Air Force Base at Geneva, N.Y., in that state’s Finger Lakes region.

From New York, Wagoner did stints at Lackland AFB, Texas, and another base in Denver. Her job was administering psychological tests to incoming recruits to determine what job they were best suited for.

“I was in the career guidance department,” she said. “We did a battery of nine tests over five days. Then we talked to the basic and decided what school they should go to in the Air Force.”

In fact, Wagoner was a trailblazer during her Air Force service. “I was the first woman in my department,” she said.

Wagoner left the service in 1953, one year after marrying her husband and before giving birth to a daughter in April 1953. Would she recommend women today join the armed forces?

“I think every girl should go in for a couple of years,” she said. “I enjoyed every minute of it. I met some interesting people.”

When not volunteering, Wagoner enjoys traveling and watching the St. Croix River from her Sunnyside Marina home.

“I like to travel. I like to go to Treasure Island,” she said. “I like to see the paddleboats go up and down the river. I’ve got a view to see the bridge being built.”

The Bayport parade Wagoner will participate in goes north on Minnesota 95 from Central Avenue to 7th Avenue North, west to 5th Street, south two blocks to 5th Avenue, then west to Hazelwood Cemetery.

American Legion Third District Vice Commander Donald Skow is memorial ceremony speaker. Skow has been with the Forest Lake American Legion Post No. 225 for 40 years, serving four times as post commander. Skow will retire from Andersen Corp. in July.

The Stillwater Area High School Band performs patriotic music; Andersen Elementary School students will recite the Gettysburg Address and “Flanders Field.”
In other ceremonies, The Stillwater VFW Post No. 323 Honor Guard will conduct Memorial Day ceremonies at six cemeteries, the post and the Stillwater Veterans Memorial.

Col. Eric Ahlness, Minnesota National Guard director of diversity and inclusion, is featured speaker at the 11 a.m. Stillwater Veterans Memorial ceremony at Third and Pine streets.

The ceremony includes music by the SAHS Concert Wind Symphony directed by Dennis Lindsay, placing of wreaths, rifle salute by VFW and American Legion members and the reading of service members’ names whose pavers have been installed since last Memorial Day. A&D, H&H and Last Man’s Club members will be recognized, along with recent Minnesota casualties from Afghanistan and Iraq.

All events take place rain or shine.