US Army, 1975-1978
Kathy Louise Brooker-Chapa is a Findlay native, born at Blanchard Valley Hospital in 1955 to parents Clifford and Frances. She joined older siblings; Jackie, Bud, Chuck and Don, fifteen years after Don was born.
Kathy was a student at Findlay High School where she graduated in 1974. She tried to become independent and move out on her own by working but financially was unable to. Joining the military had long been on her mind as she wanted “to be on my own, to be independent and there were few jobs available locally.”
Kathy’s wanted to train as a nurse in the Army but was told there was a two-year waiting list. Intent on striking out on her own Kathy enlisted in the “delayed entry” program in August of her senior year, choosing 76X-Subsistence Supply Specialist as her MOS. She did not tell her parents of her decision right away.
In January of 1975, Kathy headed to Ft McClellan, Alabama for basic training. This was the last class of “WACS” (Women’s Army Corps) to be trained in the Army.
Kathy shares her memories of basic: “It was very challenging, but I needed that at that time. The first three months were tough as it was the first time I had ever been away from home. I did get very homesick.”
“All the women recruits became a team. Each woman had her own strengths and talents and we worked together to help each other. For example, on our long run, my short legs started to give out. Two of my fellow recruits got under each of my arms and encouraged me to finish.”
After successfully completing basic, Kathy traveled next to Ft. Lee, Virginia for her specialized training. Her two-month training was all OJT, learning as she worked, about warehouse operations, driving various sized forklifts, (which she really had fun with), and how to manage spreadsheets and requisitions.
After a short leave home, Kathy arrived at her permanent duty station of Ft. Hood, Texas in May of 1975, joining the 15th Support/Transportation Battalion, 2nd Armored/1st Cav. “It was hard to adjust as other soldiers in barracks didn’t care about doing their assigned chores to keep the barracks looking sharp.” The women soldiers were assigned three to a room. The barracks could be very loud and some of the music was hard to listen to. “I often stayed in my room listening to quiet country and Christian music. Other times I took walks, explored the base, looking for things to do.”
Kathy was typically assigned to a daytime eight-hour shift at one of three warehouses on the base. Her day started at the mess hall where her favorite breakfast was “SOS” because it tasted good and was filling.”
During her time at Ft. Hood, Kathy worked in shipping and receiving in the Division supply warehouse, assisted with the ordering, stocking and rotation of food supplies in the Mess Hall warehouse, and the ordering and shipping of repair parts in the Motor pool warehouse. Each morning she would check to see which warehouse she was working that day. Kathy did well in her job and was promoted to Specialist 4, (Spec-4)
In August of 1975 Kathy married Marcus Chapa, a young man she had dated in Findlay. Both had ended up at Ft. Hood where he was a Signal Corp/Radio Operator in the 2nd Armored Division. The marriage didn’t last, and Marcus left the military in June of 1976. In July Kathy learned that she was pregnant with her daughter Jessica who arrived on April 4th, 1977. Kathy completed her contract with the Army and mustered out on January 27th, 1978. Kathy and her daughter returned to Ohio and lived in Tiffin.
Adjusting to civilian life was hard for Kathy. “There was no regimentation or structure, the work ethic was very different, and there was no respect for leadership.”
Her first job was as a teacher’s aide at New Riegel school. After her brother-in-law taught her how to use a micrometer, she was able to land a higher paying job at Webster Manufacturing where she worked as a machine operator and stock keeper for the next 13 years. After the company downsized, Kathy returned to Findlay in 1992.
While working at Webster, Kathy had attended Tiffin University, earning her Associates degree in Business Administration in 1983. Back in Findlay she attended Owens in their Pre-Nursing courses. During her second year, while she was completing her clinicals, Kathy was struck with debilitating migraines which ended her chance to get her Nursing degree.
Kathy became a Home Health Aide with Home Health Hospice care, visiting and caring for patients in their home. “I really liked talking to and listening to my clients.” She eventually moved into hospice care where “you really get close, get to know your clients. You love, care and try to keep them comfortable. You do grieve when they pass but I found it helped me gain wisdom on how to better help others.” Kathy spent the next 20 years caring for patients.
In May of 2012, the simple act of stepping up into her apartment tore the meniscus in her knee. She already had arthritis in both knees. This injury would end her career as a Home Health aide. Kathy eventually had both knees replaced in 2016 and 2017 which did improve her quality of life.
For the past five years Kathy has volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and Restore store in Findlay. She attends weekly bible study at the College First Church of God. She often eats lunch at 50North and then returns home to relax and read.
Kathy spends as much time as she can with her 3 ½ year old great-granddaughter Katie.
Kathy offers the following thoughts about her service and women serving in the military. “If you have no idea what to do with your life, perhaps you should give the military some thought. It teaches responsibility, discipline, and helps one to grow up, adjust to “real life.”
Thank you, Kathy, for your service to our country and for decades of caring for others!