Midwest Honor Flight: Female veteran inspiring young girls to consider armed forces

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 5:52 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The 15th Mission of the Midwest Honor Flight to Washington DC was completed on Wednesday, and it honored 83 veterans with “one final tour with honor.”

Mary Ellen Jepsen of Mitchell, South Dakota was the only female veteran on Mission 15. When she was growing up, she wanted to be a veterinarian. She decided against pursuing that because of her family’s financial situation and, in her words, she wasn’t “big enough” to work with cows and horses.

Instead, Jepsen enlisted in the army out of high school before the Vietnam War. After basic training in Alabama, Jepsen served in the Women’s Army Corp Detachment in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

She helped with mechanical drafting and later ran the supply department of the WAC Detachment. Jepsen became a nurse and moved to South Dakota after her service, and now, she’s a different vet.

The honor flight was a great experience for Jepsen and a great way to inspire young girls.

”I’m amazed at the young girls that come up to thank me. I’ve talked to some of them and I said, ‘Think about the service’ because you get away from home, you learn to take care of yourself,” Jepsen explained. “You can always go to college. Go on the GI Bill when you get out of the service, but I said, ‘Just think about going’. I keep thinking maybe out of all my talking to them, maybe two of them will be going into the service and so much the better.”

Jepsen said that joining the service was the best thing she ever did.