Women's military memorial thrills female veteran Odenton resident to attend dedication in Washington

October 17, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Leokadya "Lil" Rosnack, 71, of Odenton has visited the monuments and memorials in Washington several times over the years, but none means as much to her as the Women in Military Service Memorial to be dedicated tomorrow.

"This is special," said Rosnack, a Korean War Army veteran who will attend the dedication ceremony with her sister, Florence Lewandowski, 72, a Navy veteran from World War II. Both have submitted their photographs and biographies to the memorial archives.

Rosnack, raised with her two brothers and two sisters by her mother in Toledo, Ohio, wanted to travel, but couldn't afford it, so she enlisted in the Army, she said.

And travel she did. From Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington to posts in Japan and Germany and a M.A.S.H. unit in Korea.

There were nights in Korea when the only sounds were the crickets chirping, but on others she learned to distinguish between machine-gun and rifle fire. The nearby bombing runs of one enemy helicopter seemed so regular that the troops called it "Bed-check Charlie."

"When there were flares in the sky, you knew you would be working that night," she recalled.

The former Lil Baginski was a Catholic girl and wanted to take the veil until the nun who taught her eighth-grade class discouraged her, saying she was "too worldly" for such a life.

So, at the age of 18, still in high school, she barged into an Army recruiting office in Toledo waving her mother's signature of permission. The sergeant turned her away.

"She told me I was immature and insecure and would be a detriment to the Army," Rosnack recalled with a chuckle this week in her split-foyer home in Chapelgate.

Laughs at setbacks

She laughs at the setbacks now, sure that her life turned out better for those early detours.

Stung by the recruiter's words, Rosnack, went to work at a drugstore soda fountain, eventually went back to high school to earn her diploma, then completed two years of nursing school and joined the Army in 1952 as a second lieutenant.

After being stationed at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington and then Osaka, Japan, Rosnack was sent to a M.A.S.H. unit in Korea in 1953. She served there 13 months and wrote to thank the nun who had told her to pick another calling.

"I was always happy because no matter where I went, it was a good duty station," even in war, Rosnack said.

Re-enlisted in 1957

She returned to the United States in 1954 and left the Army in 1955 to care for her ailing mother. But at the urging of her mother, she re-enlisted in 1957.

"She said, 'I think you better go back before we both end up in the state hospital,' " Rosnack said. "I just wanted to be on the move."

She was stationed at an Army hospital in Bremerhaven, Germany, and indulged her desire to travel in her chocolate-and-gold-colored 1957 Ford Fairlane, which she had shipped over.

"In Germany I would just take off on a weekend and just go," Rosnack said. "I was never afraid. I knew that if I got lost somebody would turn me around."

She met her husband, Charles, an Army sergeant at the hospital, and they married in the base chapel in 1959. Rosnack left the Army a year later because she was pregnant with their first child. But she stayed close to the military, working at Kimbrough Hospital at Fort Meade for 18 years. She now works as a clerk in the post's thrift shop.

"You've got a lot of women who gave up a lot," to serve in the military, said the mother of four and grandmother of three. "But in return you got a lot too. I wouldn't change anything."

Pub Date: 10/17/97

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