Three years ago now, at the age of 70, I did something that had been on my bucket list for a while; I went skydiving with some of my 3rd Recon Bn. brothers at our reunion in Tucson, AZ. I found out then that the place where we did the jump was the very place that President George H.W. Bush did his jump at the age of 90. That jump by the nonagenarian President Bush inspired somebody else too. You are about to meet this indomitable woman here.
Her name is Vivian “Millie” Bailey. She is a, get this, 102-year-old WWII veteran of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). She was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When WWII broke out, she joined the newly formed United States Army Women’s Corps because of the lack of job opportunities available to her at that time in civilian life.
Bailey was clearly good at what she did as she rose quickly through the ranks. She became a 2nd Lt. in April of 1943 and was made second in command of the WAC unit at Ft. McClellan. She was then transferred to Ft. Benning, GA where she was selected to attend the Action General School, which to this day she says was, “a high honor.” After her schooling she was made 1st Lt. and put in command of the Ft. Benning WAC unit. She remained in that position until her discharge from the Army in 1946.
The very lively and sharp 102 year old Ms. Bailey was recently involved in the shooting of some film for an episode on the Discovery Network’s series called Honor Flight Heroes on its American Heroes Channel. The producers were very taken by this wonderful woman’s personality and one day asked her if there was anything she hadn’t done yet.
“Skydiving,” was her answer.
Well, you can imagine that they were surprised by that answer. But she said she couldn’t afford the $300 cost for that adventure.
The Honor Flight Heroes production company decided to take her up on that bucket list wish. They picked up the tab. One of the producers, Eric J. Roberts said, “You couldn’t ask for a more thrill-packed ending to the episode.”
The day came and Bailey was apparently ready but full of questions for the skydiving team. She wasn’t quite clear as to the procedure. She asked them if they were going to push her out and then catch up to her. Her instructor told her that would certainly add to the adventure of it all, but, no, she was going to be attached to him.
Her family was there to witness this improbable event, and as they watched her floating down under that chute, there were tears in all of their eyes. They said that she was a real inspiration to them.
When she came back to earth she told them, “It was wonderful, a real thrill. I was scared for one minute, it felt like I was tumbling and then I thought, somebody is holding on to me.”
I don’t know about you, but this indomitable centenarian inspires me too. That someone at such an august age would have so much life and sense of adventure in them is a marvel. But she is this way with everything she does, apparently.
Though Bailey left the Army 72 years ago, she has not forgotten her love for those who serve. She lives in an assisted living home at this time, but she has sent literally tons of care packages to those who are deployed overseas. She writes personal notes to them as well.
One of those she has sent care packages to is Christopher Williams. He said of her, “She followed me all the way (from Afghanistan to Iraq) and sent me handwritten notes. When I came back home, I was able to meet her, and it was the best thing ever.”
The Veterans Site sends its greatest respect and a joyful greeting to Vivian “Millie” Bailey. We thank her for her service in the Women’s Army Corps during WWII and for her continuing service to those deployed around the world today. But mostly, we are humbled and awed by her attitude toward life. Ms Bailey, you are a true inspiration for all of us! Hooah!
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.