WWII army nurse invited to the White House
North Fort Myers resident Albina “Tommie” Thompson recently had a lovely Wednesday afternoon, sipping tea with more than 100 of her colleagues and first lady Michelle Obama.
Thompson was one of only 130 service women who were invited to the White House as part of a veterans event tribute. The guest list included current women military personnel as well as those who served in the past, like Thompson.
She was an Army nurse caring for Americans on the hospital ship Algonquin during World War II. At that time, Eleanor Roosevelt was first lady.
When the invitation came first via a phone call from the White House, Thompson thought it was a joke.
“We thought one of our old friends were kidding us,” she said.
That phone call was followed by another followed by a very formal invitation came in the mail.
When she and friend and caregiver Margaret Fanning finally figured out it was a real invitation, Thompson said, “I was very excited and very proud to be invited.”
It was an elegant affair, she said, with the famous White House china, gorgeous flower arrangements and in a room that sported spectacular chandeliers.
“It was very, very nice. Everybody was very pleased,” she said.
Concerning Mrs. Obama, Thompson said, “She was wonderful. She had a speech for us, and Vice President Biden wife’s Jill was there, too.”
She said Mrs. Obama complimented Mrs. Biden.
“They were very friendly and work together to do a lot of different things, for children as well as women,” she said.
Security was more than tough, and Thompson said she was actually concerned she’d be late for the function after a Secret Service foray.
But she made the event and thoroughly enjoyed herself.
“It was wonderful,” she said.
She met and saw some other interesting people — including Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, USAF, retired.
“We met her before at the opening of the Women In Military Service for America Memorial,” she said.
It was dedicated in 1997 — a ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, she explained.
“It is a lovely place,” Thompson said.
Besides seeing Vaught, she also met a young woman with whom she had something in common.
“My nickname is ‘Tommie’ — everyone calls me that, and it was my nickname in the Army,” she said, adding that she met the young girl who said she had a grandmother named Thompson, nicknamed Tommie, too.
“She took my picture with her camera phone and sent it home,” she said.
Thompson spent a few days in Washington, which she also enjoyed.
“The city itself is just beautiful,” she said.”
She said the entire trip was fun from beginning to end.
“I even had a great send-off at the airport from local people who saw me on the news,” she said.
Thompson, 88, is originally from Falmouth, Mass., and has lived in North Fort Myers for the last seven years. She was one of 59,000 Army nurses who served during World War II.
She reminisced about her service, saying particularly how much she enjoyed the travel. She went through Italy, France and even North Africa.
About her experience meeting younger service women, she said, “They carry on what we had accomplished. We admired each other.”