Rosie the riveter, Korean War nurse reflects on her service

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NEW LLANO, La. (KALB) -- In 1943, Phyllis Carper was just getting out of high school. Everyone she knew was going off to war, and she wanted to do her part.

Carper, a 'Rosie the Riveter' welded copper boxes used on Norden bombsights--a device used for daytime attacks during WWII. (KALB)

"I knew that I could do things with my hands. I was a good, tactile person. So they said, 'We'll send you to be a riveter,' and I said, 'A riveter? Oh I'd love to do that!'" she said.

For two years, Carper welded copper boxes used on Norden bombsights: a device used for daytime attacks.

"And I thought I'm helping the war effort and I thought that was wonderful!" she said.

After helping at home during World War II, this Rosie the Riveter would also serve abroad. Through the Nurse Cadet Corp program, Carper commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the Army in 1950. She spent three years as a triage nurse stationed in Japan during the Korean War, receiving patients directly from Korea by the plane loads.

"They'd be in their dirty uniforms, all beat up. They were scared to death, you know, they were going home. They wanted to go home, but they didn't want to go home broken and you had to tell them, 'You're going to be okay. Your family is going to want to see you no matter what,' and we'd send them off to San Francisco," she said.

Carper said one of her first assignments was overseeing a frostbite ward of about 200 servicemen.

"These poor kids would be there with these fingers and appendages that had been frozen and they were thawing and they would be in pain and they would be crying. A lot of them would have nightmares and you'd go up and talk to them soothe them and then you'd tell them to 'Buck up!' punch them on the shoulder and show them 'You can get through this, kid!' and they would," she said.

Carper said it was an often traumatic experience, but one she'll always cherish.

"I had always told my mother when I was in high school that I wanted to go around the world. I didn't make it around the world but I made it halfway that way and halfway that way!" she said.

Earlier this month, Carper was on an honor flight to D.C. where she spent three days with a group of Korean War veterans. She said she was the only woman of 22. Originally from the Midwest, Carper came to Louisiana when her husband retired after 33 years in the Army. She also writes for the American Rosie the Riveter Association.

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