News: Legendary life of service
Story by Sgt. Barry St. Clair
FORT BLISS, Texas - When you first meet Bessie Dodd, you notice even at 87 years of age, she has a fire in her eyes. Dodd was raised in Pinedale, Wyo., located in a valley an hour south of Jackson Hole and east of the Teton mountain range. Her family relocated to Denver due to an aunt’s death in childbirth.
Dodd returned to Pinedale three years later to finish high school and graduate from there. Dodd loved to swim, and one of the trail guides donated a day camp trip on horseback up to one of the four lakes in the region to the graduating class.
After her graduation from high school, Dodd moved to Seattle to assist another aunt in business. She enjoyed her work with the company there so much, she decided to enter business school, and returned to Denver to do so.
In 1944, Dodd had to have her father sign for her to enlist in the Women’s Army Corp, since she was not quite 20 years old yet. Dodd had been taking flying lessons and wanted to join the Women’s in the Air Force, but her parents did not think it appropriate for a woman to pursue that career field.
“I went to basic training at Des Moines, Iowa, and then spent my first year working in the Pentagon tracking air force units,” said Dodd. “We did the same training the men did.”
On July 4, 1945 Dodd was aboard the Queen Elisabeth when she set sail for Greenwich Scotland with the first group of WACs bound for Germany after WWII ended in Europe on May 7, 1945.
They traveled by train to South Hampton, England where they boarded a troop ship to cross the English Channel.
“They shot at mines [in the water] all the way across the channel,” Dodd said. “We arrived at tent city in Combien, France outside of Paris, and then were flown to Bremen, Germany.”
Dodd and a girlfriend worked as information administrators, working with NATO forces and mostly intelligence operatives to process all the people flowing through Bremen from Berlin.
“When I arrived in Bremen, there were only three major streets open,” said Dodd. They were still removing bodies from the rubble. We worked out of a building that had been the [German] SS headquarters. It was the only building for six or eight blocks in any direction that had not been destroyed. Only the top floor of the plush building was damaged.”
“Every place we went, we flew or went by truck under armed guard,” Dodd continued. “We were not allowed to walk on the sidewalk, or go anywhere alone. In any case, there was no place to go and not many streets that were clear.”
Soon the decision was made to move the WAC Company north to Frankfurt. Dodd had decided to marry a soldier instead, and was discharged from the Army. She continued to serve as an information administrative assistant until her husband and her returned to the States in 1946.
Following a couple of tours to Taiwan as an Army advisor on missile technology, the Dodds returned to Fort Bliss to stay in 1973. Since that time, Dodd has been volunteering with the Red Cross at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
“I began down the hill in the old hospital,” said Dodd. “The construction of the new facility was underway by then.”
Dodd began a new venture in 1978 that she continues to fill to the present time. That is Patient Advocacy Office, begun under head nurse Ruth Wilson. In the 45 years since, Dodd, and her office have provided information to patients, assisted them in getting to the services they needed, and gathered information from all the clinics here to develop hospital policies.
The Red Cross volunteers also staff the information desk on the third floor near the emergency room entrance, guiding patients, developing hospital service directories, and managing information.
“You meet many people – many different people; and we began to develop programs based on the information we received from patients,” said Dodd. “Hospital policies were developed from the information we gathered and processed from the patients. We try to get information out to patients to make them more satisfied with the services they are getting. We are constantly developing brochures and such.”
Dodd has volunteered at the Information desk, as well as continuing to staff the Patient Advocacy Office.
Dodd still enjoys camping and RVing to this day. She plans to continue voluntary service with the Red Cross at WBAMC.
“I plan to continue as long as I feel useful and productive, and as long as my husband’s health holds,” said Dodd.