For 95-year-old Ellina Spyker, the American flag she was sitting next to at a ceremony Wednesday meant more to her than one might guess.
Ellina used to be known as Command Sergeant Major Spyker, after joining the Army Air Corps in 1943 during the throws of World War II and launching a military career that would span three decades.
Spyker thought she was going to her 95th birthday party, and was invited to the stage to lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. Little did she know the stage was for her
Spyker was awarded eight service medals in the surprise ceremony organized by her family and friends.
She was born in New York City in 1920, the youngest of three daughters of an aeronautical engineer. She joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, serving until 1973.
“I felt like I wanted to go into the Army… I thought I had to do my share,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Spyker had a long and storied career. She served in Germany, England and Belgium in World War II, and was later stationed in Japan and Korea before serving at the Pentagon and achieving the highest rank possible for an enlisted soldier.
Representative Suzanne Bonamici joined in the ceremony, congratulating Spyker on her groundbreaking accomplishments.
"Her career helped pave the way for women in the military," Rep. Bonamici said.
Along with a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol, Spyker was awarded eight esteemed medals:Meritorious Service MedalArmy Commendation Medal (with three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters)Good Conduct Medal, 8th AwardWomen's Army Corps Service MedalEuropean-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Silver Service Star (representing six campaigns)World War II Victory MedalArmy of Occupation Medal with German claspNational Defense Service Medal (with one Bronze Service Star)Spyker shared stories of serving in the office of the Secretary of the Army, meeting celebrities like Irving Berlin and traveling the world.
“Every country had something beautiful to watch or see, and some bad things,” she recalled. I liked them all, really, because you read so much and heard so much about them.”
She said the honor Wednesday was a very welcome surprise.
“It’s amazing, amazing, overwhelming I should say.”
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