METHUEN — When she was discharged from the Army in 1945, Ethel LaSalle never thought of herself as a veteran.
But that’s all changed. Over the past 20 years, she’s actively encouraged those who served in the armed forces to become involved in various veterans groups.
“I don’t know what the heck is wrong with the younger generation,” said LaSalle, 84, who served in the Signal Corps in Washington during 1944 and 1945. “These days they don’t want to get together and help each other. We need them to come forward to help us out.”
LaSalle, who has been a member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, American Legion and Am Vets throughout the years, is currently serving as the second vice president and membership chairman of Chapter 14 of the Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association.
“At first I never gave it another thought that I was a veteran,” LaSalle said. “It never occurred to me that I was a veteran, even though I served in World War II.”
LaSalle said that changed when she was approached about joining the various veterans organizations.
“There are so many women veterans, and they don’t know the benefits and the things they are entitled to,” LaSalle said. “We’re trying to reach them. I don’t care what you say, a veteran is a veteran and you always feel close to them.”
LaSalle said one of the best things about being involved in veterans organizations is being able to talk to others about their experiences.
“Most of the time you don’t talk to your kids about it; you just don’t,” LaSalle said. “But when you meet another veteran, it’s a whole different story.
“We laugh and have fun. We talk about the crazy things that happened, and some of them have had bad things happen to them and we’re there for them. We’re bonded together.”
LaSalle feels the same way about the men in the organizations as she does the women.
“I think it’s the old saying, ‘Once a veteran, always a veteran,'” LaSalle said. “If you meet someone who is a vet, there’s a connection there, man or woman.”
LaSalle said they are not just veterans, but friends as well. “We’re true friends from all walks of life.”
LaSalle currently travels to Somerville to attend her veterans organization, but is planning on maybe changing the charter to Methuen, now that she lives here.
“I really enjoy going to the meetings, but I’m turning 85 this month,” LaSalle said. “It’s getting hard driving all that way.”
LaSalle married her husband Norman in 1945, on a weekend pass from the Army. “He asked me on a Wednesday and the following Saturday we were married,” LaSalle said.
LaSalle was married for 36 years before Norman died in 1982. She currently lives with her daughter, Ethel Ann. Her other daughter, Margarite, also lives in Methuen.
Chapter 14 of the Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association is looking for new members to join its mission of community service.
Bay State Chapter 14, the Massachusetts arm of the national WAC Veterans Association, has been serving veterans for more than 50 years.
Chapter 14 is heavily involved in four Boston-area veterans hospitals, contributes to the Army Women’s Museum, supports local scholarships and the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project, along with various other initiatives.
Membership is open to women who served honorably or are serving in the following military organizations: Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, Women’s Army Corps, Army, Army Reserve, National Guard and Army Nurse Corps.
For more information, call Ethel LaSalle, Chapter 14 second vice president and membership chairman, at 978-687-3135, write her at 128 Hampshire Road, Methuen, MA 01844 or e-mail her at EAKelloway@yahoo.com.