Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Coast Guard Veteran Dorothy Dempsey, who served in the Women’s Reserve during World War II.
Drawn to military service by the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, Dorothy Dempsey enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve in 1944. She joined some 13,000 other women in the training process, which began in Palm Beach, Florida. The women, nicknamed “SPARS,” after the Coast Guard motto of “Semper Paratus-Always Ready,” participated in rigorous training exercises to prepare them for land-based duties.
Dempsey joined SPARS with the intention to become a chaplain’s assistant. However, because her gender prevented her from performing religious ceremonies in her Roman Catholic religion, the service denied her request.
Instead, Dempsey became a master-at-arms, responsible for morale and assignment management. She worked in an office in Boston and performed recruitment, assignment and morale-boosting duties all over New England.
Part of Dempsey’s role as a recruiter and morale-lifter included performing in radio shows. Dempsey reflected on her time singing on a Boston radio show in a 2010 interview with Rutgers University.
“I used to sing with the group in Boston, on Boston radio,” she explained. “…We would recruit, tell them about women in the military, and then, Margaret Chase Smith, who was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.”
In March 1946, Dempsey honorably discharged from the Coast Guard. She began work at a New York advertising agency.
Dempsey also became involved with several groups for women Veterans and advocated for the placement of statues of women Veterans. She served on the New Jersey Advisory Committee on Women Veterans in 1989. The same year, she designed a statue of a woman Veteran based on the Minute Man statue in Concord. The statue, known as the “Minutewoman,” was dedicated in 2003 and resides in the New Jersey Military Cemetery. She also gave many presentations on the history of women Veterans in schools and worked with Veteran women in hospitals and care facilities.
Dempsey passed away in 2018 at the age of 96.
Dempsey received an American Campaign medal as well as a Good Conduct Medal.
We honor her service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Maggie Thomas
Editors: Annabelle Colton and Theresa Lyon
Fact checkers: Giacomo Ferrari and Patrick E. Woods
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley