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97-year-old World War II vet buried with military honors

Army National Guard Honor Guard officers extend full military honors at the burial of MIA World War II veteran Sgt. Howard F. Gotts, U.S. Army Air Force, at Sand Hill Cemetery in Stanley. [MELODY BURRI/FOR MESSENGER POST MEDIA]
February 03, 2020

A woman who gladly served her country in World War II has been laid to rest.

Thelma K. Miller, of Norwalk, was buried last Monday at Woodlawn Cemetery with military honors. She was 97 years old when she died Jan. 21 in Willard.

Miller’s daughter, Michele Brewster, of Wakeman, said her mother was “quite outgoing” and didn’t let “much stand in her way.”

“She lived life on her own terms,” she said.

Miller, who was born in Ada, served with the WASP 4410, which helped transport supplies and soldiers to and from different bases. She was deployed in 1944.

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“In 1942, the United States was faced with a severe shortage of pilots and leaders gambled on an experimental program to help fill the void: Train women to fly military aircraft so male pilots could be released for combat duty overseas,” according to NPR. “The group of female pilots was called the Women Airforce Service Pilots — WASP for short.”

Miller, in a February 2018 interview with the Norwalk Reflector, said the experience didn’t scare her easily. She served in the 10th WASP class that was trained in 1944.

“You can’t freak out when you fly; once you’re trained you get farther and farther from that. If you can’t, you don’t fly,” Miller said in 2018.

“I just wanted to go to serve my country and help, so I said ‘Why not,’” said Miller, who signed up through a series of letters and interviews.

Brewster said her mother didn’t talk much about her time in World War II, but she was proud to serve her country.

“She had the personality for it. She, like a lot of people, wanted to help her country and that’s the way she could help,” Brewster said. “It came about when a reporter made a comment or an article about the new military women, that they were the very first. That kinda ruffled feathers.”

When Miller applied for the WASP program, she had about 200 hours of flight time; the minimum requirement was 35.

“I received a lot of lash back from my family and friends who thought I was crazy for going so far away since, back in the 40s, Texas was far away from Ohio. I don’t think the feedback was hurtful, but they were definitely worried,” Miller said.

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