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Military couple remember their service in World War II

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Nov 12 2012 08:38:59 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 10 2014 07:36:18 PM CDT

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Vina reports.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

(Nov. 2012 story)

Women were not allowed to join the United States Army until 1942. Now, women have active roles in the military.

Our New Mexico Mobile sat down with one of the first military couples in the country, including a pioneer who paved the way for women in the military.

"There was no place for women in the service. A lot of girls just wanted to do something," World War II Veteran Betty Somppi told ABC-7.

Somppi, 97, said she was one of the first 1,300 women to join the U.S. Army.

"The women wanted to do it. If a woman wants to serve her country, I can't see any reason why she shouldn't be able to do it in any capacity that she's qualified for," she said.

Somppi trained recruits for four years in World War II.

This year, she celebrates her 69th wedding anniversary with her husband James.

James Somppi, 91, was a turret gunner in the Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the Air Force.

"A lot of fun. Well that's the wrong word, it was exciting. You felt like you were doing your job to stop the Japanese from further intrusion into China," he said.

The two got married during a weekend they were both on leave.

"I was kidded about being married to a captain. Of course, I had a photograph near my bunk. I felt it was quite an honorable thing and unusual," James Somppi said.

Betty Somppi said she's thrilled to see how much women in the military can do now.

"We weren't even allowed to fire a weapon. We didn't have that choice. I certainly would have gone any place that I was needed," she said.

Looking back on their long history together, the couple said they'd do it all again.

"I don't think I'd ever trade with anybody," Betty Somppi said.

Now the Somppis are enjoying their retirement in Las Cruces and spending as much time with family as possible.

(Nov. 2012 story)

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