La Loma Village residents reflect on military careers including wartime duty
(As seen in LiveWell magazine)
Maurine Brinegar was on track for a career in economics when she decided to make a dramatic turn. Al Bartels was an unsatisfied college kid who opted for a new calling. They each began a journey—a decade apart—that would follow strikingly similar paths. Both Brinegar and Bartels enjoyed distinguished military careers, marked by dedicated wartime service, a passion for their roles, prestigious recognition and achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Brinegar, age 95, joined the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and spent 25 years in the Army. Bartels served 25 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot, flight instructor and Air National Guard advisor.
As “twenty-somethings,” neither could have predicted how their military service would unfold.
“I was a senior in college and all the fellas were enlisting,” recalls Brinegar of the rush to support the country as it became entrenched in World War II. “I thought, ‘Go for a year and do my part.’”
It was 1943 and women were joining the WAAC, a special unit created to train women for desperately needed jobs to bolster the war effort.
She made her mark in communications intelligence, serving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in Japan and Germany. The work and travel were rewarding as Brinegar climbed the ranks through two wars. She received the prestigious Legion of Merit award for exceptional service.
Brinegar retired in 1968 and joined the business world, spending six months annually traveling in Asia. Brinegar has enjoyed living at La Loma Village, a Sun Health Senior Living Life Care community, for the past decade. She is comforted knowing that she lives in a community that will meet her residential and health care needs.
Reflecting on her full military career, Brinegar says, “The Army was my first job. I learned a lot, and it was quite good for me. I grew up in a hurry.”
He trained as a fighter pilot and spent nearly three decades flying missions and serving as a flight instructor at posts in the United States and abroad. He served two tours during the Vietnam War. His last assignment was an advisor to the Arizona National Guard in Tucson.
Bartels says the long career was challenging and satisfying. He also enjoyed the camaraderie and travel. He received the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry medals for acts of valor during the Vietnam War. He also received 16 air medals recognizing many combat missions.
“I joined the service to make a life, and I was very pleased with the life I made,” Bartels says.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1979, Bartels forged a successful career in economic development. He and his wife, Nancy, moved to La Loma Village more than two years ago. They enjoy a busy life filled with friendships and activities. “We’re all a big family here,” he says of the Life Care community that sits immediately south of Luke Air Force Base.
“La Loma Village is enriched by its many veteran residents,” says Kari Curry, Life Enrichment director and Assisted Living manager for Sun Health Senior Living. “Military service is not only at the heart of our country, but the heart of La Loma Village. We are especially grateful for all those who served our country as we celebrate Veterans Day, and are honored to have all major branches of the military represented by our residents.”
To learn more about La Loma Village and Sun Health Senior Living, visit SunHealthSeniorLiving.org or call 623-537-7521.