At nearly 100 years old, military veteran and cancer survivor Sarah “Effie” Hurley reflects on her life’s service and the meaning of freedom. From World War II to the Cold War effort, Effie has experienced more than most people do in a lifetime.
During World War II Effie served three years in the Women’s Army Corps at Fort Custer, MI. The women, known as WACS, served in noncombatant jobs to free up male soldiers for combat. The Ft. Custer Army base operated as a military training base, an Army hospital for soldiers wounded on the battlefields in Europe, and as a POW camp for German soldiers.
Upon discharge from the Army, Effie relocated to California and landed a job with the Atomic Energy Commission as a liaison to UC Laboratory at Berkeley. This was during the Cold War, in the early 1950s, when the race began between the US and Russia to develop nuclear weapons.
With America’s freedom at stake, the UC Radiation Laboratory conducted scientific studies by testing atomic bombs in Southern Nevada. The Atomic Energy Commission managed this 28-acre site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, or Nevada Proving Ground. Effie’s duties took her to the Test Site where she viewed several atomic blasts in the desert. There she’d wear dark goggles against the blinding flash, brace for the bomb’s shockwave, and watch as huge brilliant clouds mushroomed into the sky. This experience wasn’t without risk. “There was a wind shift,” said Effie. “I was on the control tower, and we had to evacuate real quick.”
Today, as Effie contemplates the past and the country’s efforts to sustain liberty for Americans, she weaves the meaning of freedom into her everyday life at Eskaton Lodge Cameron Park, a leading nonprofit provider of aging services in Northern California. She says the people at Eskaton are great, day and night, in all the ways they care for her and the other residents. “I’ve been around a while,” Effie says with a smile. “Freedom means home, it’s here, it’s mine and I like it.”
Watch this video to hear what Effie and her friends at Eskaton say about freedom.