By Derek Maul
When The Bridges resident, Dorothea Kelchner Wyda, saw her brother, Larry, leave their Pennsylvania home to join the Navy, she knew she wanted to help the war effort too.
It was 1944 and Dorothea was 22-years old so she joined the Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). She served for two years, wore the uniform proudly, and earned two medals, the American Campaign Ribbon and the Victory Ribbon.
Today, Dorothea doesn’t remember a lot of the details, but she is still crystal clear regarding the central point of being a WAVE. “We were all helping each other,” she said. “We all did what we could.”
Dorothea’s youngest daughter, Susan Goldberg, helped fill in some of the gaps.
“They sent my mother to New York for training,” Susan said. ”Then she was deployed to Washington D.C. She helped with clerical work and she loved to wear the uniform; mother’s always been a flag raiser.”
“Yes, it was for my country,” Dorothea said. “I did what I could do.”
After the war, Dorothea met her husband, the late Captain Andrew Wyda.
“My father was a captain; a dentist in the Navy,” Susan said. “They lived in 18 places the first 23 years of their marriage, and mother was always president of some support group. In their generation, there were a lot of parties and proper etiquette; it was all about pleasing the rank above you.”
According to Dorothea’s daughter, there was hardly ever any conversation about her mother’s service as a WAVE.
“She didn’t talk about the war,” Susan said. “Apparently my father didn’t want anybody to know she was a WAVE. I’ve been told that it was embarrassing to men that the women were in uniform. I don’t think I found out until I was in high school.”
Dorothea relished her support role as an officer’s spouse, and worked tirelessly.
“But that’s her personality,” Susan said. “She’s always been committed to helping, wherever she is.”
“We had to do something,” Dorothea said. “We all did what we could. We helped one another.”