Friday, March 25, 2022

Windham’s female veterans share their stories for National Women’s History Month

Recognizing two women veterans, Alola Morrison,
left, and Phyllis Page, both from Windham who have 
shared their achievements, courage and strength as 
each chose a life in the military while at the same
time choosing to be married and mothers.
By Lorraine Glowczak

March is Women’s History Month – a time to officially recognize women's contributions to society - contributions that once went unnoticed. The first celebration occurred in 1980 and was dedicated to one week. President Jimmy Carter wrote a message to the nation, designating March 2 to 8, as National Women’s History Week.

In that letter, he said: “From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often, the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”

Two women veterans, Alola Morrison and Phyllis Page, both of Windham, recently shared their achievements, courage and strength as each chose a life in the military while at the same time choosing a life of marriage and motherhood.


Page, born in Farmington, Maine, grew up in a military family, which meant she was always on the move. She attended over 13 different schools during her youth, graduating from Windham High School in 1973. In late fall of 1974, she enlisted in the Navy at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs.


“I always knew from a young age that I wanted to be a part of the military - I wanted to travel because there were so many other parts of the world I wanted to see,” Page said.  

Once enlisted, she ‘filled out a dream sheet’ of all the places she hoped to be stationed. Page listed as many west coast locations as possible as she had yet to see the western seaboard.

“Believe it or not, they sent me to Brunswick, Maine,” Page laughed, recalling her disappointment at the time. 

However, her stint in Maine was short-lived. Within a year, Page received orders for a two-year assignment in Cuba. 

“I arrived at Guantanamo Bay in 1977 and was selected for an elite position on the captain’s boat crew,” Page said. “I was the only female on the team and we were in charge of escorting the captain, his family and other dignitaries from one side of the base to the other [by boat]. The ‘normal people’ had to take the ferry.” 


In Cuba, Page met her future husband, Andrew Page, a member of the Navy. In 1978, they married and Page retired from the military while her husband remained on active duty. Page became restless as a stay-at-home wife.


“I wasn’t content just sitting at home, so I reenlisted in 1980 and relocated with my husband to a base in Virginia,” Page said.

While stationed in Virginia, Page worked as a Dispensing Clerk in the commissary and stayed there until her enlistment was up. After that, she dedicated her life to her husband’s career and raising their four daughters.


Morrison’s story begins much like Page’s. She also grew up in a military family, with a father who was enlisted in the Coast Guard. Admiring her father and his dedication, Morrison wanted to follow in his footsteps. Morrison joined The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps – which is currently a federal uniformed service of the U.S Public Health Services that encompasses eight uniformed services of the United States. At the time Morrison joined in 1960, the U.S. Public Health Service was designated as the support health agency for the U.S. Merchant Marines and the U.S. Coast Guard.


Before joining Public Health Services, Morrison, who was born in Norfolk, Virginia but moved often, eventually moved to Bangor, with her family, attending the University of Maine-Orono. She worked on a double major in foods/nutrition and home economics, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in 1959. 


“After graduating, I was accepted in a yearlong post-graduate training to become a registered dietitian at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and applied for a commission in the Public Health Service,” Morrison said. “I became an officer in the fall of 1960 with the rank of Lt. Jr. grade. My major responsibility was to advise patients that needed therapeutic diets. It was a 150-bed hospital that catered mainly to U.S. Coast Guard active and retired personnel and their families.”


In 1962, Morrison married her college sweetheart, Joseph, and together they moved back to Bangor to be near his family and his job as a principal of two schools. At this time, Morrison resigned from her commission and raised a family, eventually enlisting into the Navy Reserves.


“I joined the U.S. Army Reserves in l974 with the rank of Captain,” Morrison said. “The main unit was out of Auburn, 1125th Medical Unit Section, but my monthly drills were in Bangor at the Army Reserve Center and St. Joseph Hospital. I became a Major before I retired with 12 years in the Army Reserve.”


Both Morrison and Page encourage women to join the armed forces if they consider it but recommend talking to other women who have been or still are in the military.


“It is a great opportunity for women, especially if you enlist for a specific school or area of interest such as communications, radar technology, etc.” Page said. 


The most crucial thing Page and Morrison have gathered from their time and experiences in the military, and perhaps most proud of, is their level of resiliency - making do with very little.


“We can stand on our own two feet,” they said proudly.

This strength, courage, leadership and achievement in women are recognized and honored more and more, thanks to the celebration of women’s contributions to society. National Women’s History Month gives women like Morrison and Page an opportunity to share their stories that otherwise may all have been left unsaid.


Page and Morrison are both members of American Legion Post 148 in Windham where Morrison is the Second Vice Commander.<

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