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City Lights: A common goal to serve the country

March 14, 2012|By Michael Miller
  • Navy corpsman veteran Stephanie Stone talks to community members during "Coffee with a Veteran" series at Coastline Community College's Veterans Resource Center on Tuesday.
Navy corpsman veteran Stephanie Stone talks to community… (Scott Smeltzer,…)

Tuesday morning, I spent more than an hour at Coastline Community College with a woman who declared herself a pacifist at an early age, then went on to a long career with theU.S. military.

From the above paragraph, you may think this is going to be a story about transformation. It's not.

Stephanie Stone, a retired Navy corpsman, has never served in combat, never even treated a combat casualty. But Tuesday morning, she became the second guest in Coastline's Coffee with a Veteran series, in which members of the public mingle with people who have served their country in myriad ways.

Stone, who grew up in San Pedro and still lives there, did her part in the Navy for two decades as a medic — the first decade treating patients directly on the naval base, the second recruiting healthcare providers and training reservists.

As a child in a military family, Stone knew early on that she wanted to follow in the steps of her parents and great-uncles. As a descendant of immigrants, she hoped to give back to the country that had given her family new opportunities. Both inclinations led her to volunteer for medic training, which she began shortly after the Vietnam War ended.

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What kept her in the service so long? In part, it was the camaraderie. As a corpsman, Stone worked on an eclectic team of people from different races, backgrounds and income levels. Once on the base, they melded into a unit.

"It's a wonderful blending," Stone told the half-dozen people, many of them fellow veterans, who lined the chairs in the center's meeting room. "We all came in with one common goal, which was to serve our country."

Listening to Stone, I found my eyes straying to the posters around the room, many of them vintage recruitment ads that portrayed troops as strapping and adventurous. One poster urged Americans to join the service and "free the world"; another showed the famous image of the men hoisting the flag at Iwo Jima.

I have no doubt that when many people enlist, they dream of playing a part in one of those iconic moments. But Tuesday's visit was a reminder that military service often takes quieter, less glamorous and no less valuable forms.

Moreover, Stone's contributions didn't end when she officially retired from the Navy. She now presides as a member of the Los Angeles County Veterans Advisory Commission and advocates for healthcare for women veterans.

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