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Forever a Soldier: Unforgettable Stories of Wartime Service

Chapter Four: Groundbreakers

Wartime calls on many to serve, but not all of them have been considered equal in status. For women and minorities, especially African Americans, a national emergency is an opportunity for advancement and for changing the culture of the military. World War II was a turning point in that struggle; it gave women their first real chance to serve in uniform, and it reminded everyone that fighting a war for freedom was meaningless without racially integrated armed forces to win that fight.

One Woman's Story - Darlene M. Iskra

Image of Darlene Iskra

When Darlene Iskra enlisted in the Navy in 1979, her ambitions were modest; she was 27, coming off a divorce, her life in need of a jump start. She unwittingly caught a wave of change in that service, becoming one of the first women to graduate from dive school. Her talent for supervision and her tenacity won her a loyal following in the higher echelons of the Navy, and in December 1990, she became the first woman to take command of a U.S. Navy ship, aptly named the Opportune. Though her ship was on stand-by duty during the Persian Gulf War, Iskra's name was already secure in Naval history.

Learn more about Darlene M. Iskra

"Don't treat me any differently; I am the commanding officer and that's it." (Video Interview, 34:55)

Additional Veterans Featured in Chapter Four

Image of Norman Saburo Ikari

"The first thing I think about is I better not move. They might finish me off."

Norman Saburo Ikari's story

Image of Yeiichi Kelly Kuwayama

"I think each time I went out in no man’s land was an event." 

Yeiichi Kelly Kuwayama's story

Image of Augustus Prince

"I think the most important thing I learned [in the Navy] is that I'm as good as anybody."

Augustus Prince's story

Image of Bertran F. Wallace

"There were still people who had hidden agendas because of the color of my skin, which I had nothing to do with."

Bertran F. Wallace's story