Coast Guard veteran visits Coast Guard unit for first time in 65 years

Milwaukee – Grace Wroblewski disposed of her military uniforms many years ago and only kept a few cherished photos and pins from her proud service to the nation during World War II. And although her memories are somewhat clouded decades later, she still smiles as she recalls bits and pieces of the time she served in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Grace, an 89-year-old resident of Harmony Living Center in Stevens Point, Wisc., visited a Coast Guard unit Sept. 14, 2010, for the first time since she left the service more than 65 years ago.

In celebration of National Assisted Living Week, from Sept. 12-18, 2010, the staff at Harmony Living Center asked its residents what wishes they had during their lifetime that they had never been able to fulfill.

The mother of five and grandmother to 26 grandchildren explained to them that she had lived a very fulfilling life and couldn’t think of anything she had ever wanted to do, but hadn’t done, said her daughter Kathy. But when the staff brought up her time as a Coast Guard SPAR and asked if she would like to visit a Coast Guard unit, Grace gladly accepted the offer.

The SPARs were the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, who saw duty during World War II and took their name from the Coast Guard motto “Semper Paratus” along with its English translation “Always Ready.”

During the weeks leading up to her visit, she proudly shared with her family photos of her Coast Guard friends and stories from her time working in New Orleans, where she had to opportunity to see a Mardis Gras celebration, said Kathy.

Grace traveled nearly three hours with Kathy and her granddaughter Becky to Coast Guard Station Milwaukee to meet the crew, tour the station and see how the Coast Guard has changed over the years.

As Grace was looking at Station Milwaukee’s boats from the pier, Cmdr. Charles Tenney, of Sector Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, surprised her with a plaque to honor her time in Coast Guard history from 1943 to 1945.

MILWAUKEE - U.S. Coast Guard veteran Grace Wroblewski looks out at Coast Guard Station Milwaukee''s boats during her visit to Coast Guard Station Milwaukee Sept. 14, 2010.  A resident of Harmony Living Center in Stevens Point, Wisc., Wroblewski visited the station during National Assisted Living Week as part of the center's program to help residents fulfill lifelong wishes. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Jorgensen)

Coast Guard veteran Grace Wroblewski during her visit to Station Milwaukee

She grinned as she accepted the plaque and clutched it tightly to her chest for the remainder of her time there.

After her tour, Grace and Kathy talked about the time Grace spent building submarine transformers, her fond memories of the men and women she worked with, and her tough decision to leave the Coast Guard.

In 1945, less than two years into her Coast Guard career, Grace was faced with the decision to transfer assignments to Hawaii alone or be discharged from the Coast Guard and remain with her Army husband.

She said the work was not hard and it paid well, but she chose to leave the military and stay with her husband. She hasn’t looked back.

Although Grace only has to look at her wedding photograph of both she and her husband in uniform to be reminded of her service, she now has new memories to share with family and fellow Harmony residents.

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