OKEECHOBEE — Veteran Belinda Whisman was born and raised in a small town in Southern Ohio called Wheelersburg. She joined the Army right out of high school. She had always wanted to join the military, ever since she was a little girl. Her father was a retired Navy veteran, and that influenced her a lot. She did her basic training in Fort Dix, N.J., then was sent to Fort Lee, Va. for schooling, and then Fort Ord, Calif., before being sent to Camp Casey, Korea in 1983.
Her job was to drive for officers, and while she was stationed in Korea, she drove back and forth to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) twice a week with her commanding officer. The DMZ is the no man’s land between North and South Korea. It is approximately 160 miles long and two and a half miles wide. Troops from both sides are stationed there to guard against any potential threat from the other side. There was a place called Freedom Bridge, and women were not normally allowed there at that time, but because of her job, she was one of the few allowed to drive across that bridge, she said.
Korea was a very war-torn country, and it was bitterly cold in the winter, she said. It’s like a wet cold, and it’s hard to get warm again. She thinks about the soldiers who were in the Korean War and wonders how they made it. “It must have been so hard for them,” she said.
“When the Korean War ended, it was just a cease fire,” she explained. “There have been American troops over there all this time, protecting South Korea from North Korea. Things still happen over there that people don’t hear about. They fire across the line or things like that, but that never makes it back here. They don’t really want the general public to know some of the stuff that happens there. Since it was just a cease fire, it could really start back up at any time. We could be down in the little village and if the alert siren went off, we’d have to run back to base and get ready and go. At any time, anything could happen. That’s why it’s so important for people to understand how very critical these missiles are that Kim Jong-Un is firing off.”
She spent a year and three months in Korea before heading back to Fort Lee where she finished out the rest of her four years in the military. She injured her leg while running, and was unable to re-enlist for another tour.
She spent some time working in Dayton, Ohio and eventually moved to Florida to be near her father.
She is considered 60% disabled by the VA, and said Gregg Maynard has been a big help to her in navigating the VA system, and she really appreciates that. They have a lot in common because they both have a heart for the hurting she said. She worked at Martha’s House as a domestic violence advocate until she just couldn’t do it any more. She went to college for human services.
“A lot of veterans want to help other veterans,” she said. “They know how hard it is and what they are going through. You can tell people about being a veteran, but they really don’t get it. They aren’t going to grasp the whole concept, and it’s not their fault. You just can’t grasp it if you’ve never done it. Female veterans really hold my heart. I don’t think they get any kind of support. When you say veterans, people think men automatically, and it really shouldn’t be that way.”