VETERAN’S VOICES: It takes a fierce female to lead

Veterans Voices

Hear how this fierce female rose in the ranks.

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — World War II was a pivotal moment in history. For the first time, women were called to the battlefield.

Inspired by the brave women called to action and by her father and stepfather, who served in WWII, Joann Bienvenu began her career as a flight nurse in 1974 as a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves stationed at the Naval Air Station New Orleans.

“I think it was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done in my life,” Lt. Colonel JoAnn Bienvenu (ret.) told us. “Well, I had been out of nursing school, graduated from LSU, and had been working a couple of years and I decided that I had some major life changes. I had decided to step outside of my zone of comfort.”

She later transferred to the Mississippi Air National Guard flying out of Jackson. As a member of the 183rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, she served in Operation Desert Shield and was deployed during Operation Desert Storm. Lt. Colonel Bienvenu retired in 1996 as a Chief Flight Nurse and Commander.

“I was one of two commanders. At one time, I was the only commander of the squadron on the base at the Mississippi Air National Guard. So, it was challenging at times,” recalled Bienvenu.

As a woman at war, she had to stand her ground as she fought for our country’s freedom. It was her strength, courage, and determination that pushed her to the highest ranks.

Lt. Col. Bienvenu served her country for 22 years. Even though she is retired, she still suits up but, this uniform is a little different. As a retired Lt. Col. Bienvenu volunteers and is a tour guide at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

“I love the museum because it shows the war in all of its human element and that’s the important thing,” said Bienvenu.

Bienvenu can be found most days in the Arsenal of Democracy exhibit, touring visitors giving them an up-close history lesson.

“I stayed in the military because I was a flight nurse. I got in because I wanted to experience new things. I stayed in because I thought you know what, I’m a nurse this is what I can give to my country,” said Bienvenu. “This is what I can give to the people who are fighting our country and defending our constitution and Democracy. I have the capabilities of being a nurse. I’m going to do it. It’s what you bring not what you get but also what you get.”

When she sees young women interested in serving our nation on the battlefield she takes the time to stop and share her story, with hopes of inspiring the next generation.

To Lt. Colonel JoAnn Bienvenu (ret.), we thank you for your service.

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