FAIRFIELD — The youngest of three children, Rudy Hardy followed her older sister into the military, joining the United States Air Force. She retired after 22 years.
Hardy, an occupational therapist, met her husband in the military. He died from cancer about 25 years ago.
The military has given her so much more, she said.
“I feel it gave me security,” she said. “They’ll take care of you the rest of your life.”
Travel was another benefit.
“I traveled all over Europe. From Frankfurt to London was only $69. You couldn’t afford not to go,” she said.
She was able to go to Croatia and meet relatives for the first time. Her father had come from Croatia and served in the United States Army.
Hardy admitted to being a little hesitant about joining the military.
“My parents didn’t speak English well,” she said, adding she felt it was her job to make life easy on them.
Years later, while talking to a college roommate, Hardy heard the story of how her father had told the friend that he thought the military might be the best thing for his daughter.
“They did well without me,” Hardy said.
Her first assignment was at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida.
“It was the playground of the Air Force,” she said. “The officer’s club was on the beach.”
Next it was Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Then she was sent to Travis Air Force Base, where her sister was also stationed. Four years at Wiesbaden, Germany, followed.
It was a fairly routine schedule as Hardy worked weekdays and had holidays off. Overtime was rare.
Hardy finished her military career at Kessler Air Force Base in Mississippi. She retired as a lieutenant colonel.
She was in for almost three years when she decided to make the military her career. While there were many women in her field, she had no problem with other men in the service.
“They saw an officer, rather than a woman,” she said.
Had she not joined the military, Hardy figures she would have ended up marrying a farmer and merging his family farm with the one she grew up on. She subscribes to her hometown paper and follows what is happening with old friends.
“Now they are grandparents,” she said. “They haven’t really seen the world.”
She suggested that young women, straight out of high school and unable to find work, join the military and work toward their college degree.
“You’ll have security. When my husband died, I had my own retirement. I planned my life as if I might not marry, would I be able to take care of myself,” she said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.