Approximately 400,000 women served the armed forces in World War II. Although they weren't allowed in combat, they served vital roles in the country and across the world during the war.
Three women, who are WWII veterans, took off on the first-ever U.P. Honor Flight in September, but this journey was not the first time they've met. Their friendship runs deep, and they have a bond like no other.
"They know what we went through to get where we got," says veteran Joy Sleeper. "Other women that didn't serve, don't."
Each was stationed in the country. Joy Sleeper was with 1,500 other Navy girls in Cleveland, putting together survivor and death benefits for the soldiers.
"We'd get the forms from ships or a land base about somebody that died," Sleeper says. "We figured out how much money they had coming back."
Alice Baggett and Shirley Bentgen worked at a naval air station tending airplanes.
"They'd bring the planes in after so many hours and recondition them," says Bentgen. "I was in parts control--I'd take things to the different areas that had to be fixed."
They really came together to form a longstanding friendship after the war in Hiawatha Shores WAVES National, an organization for women Navy veterans. But, i t's been getting harder for them to make it to their regular WAVES meetings.
Thanks to the Honor Flight, a non-profit organization that sends veterans to see their memorials in Washington D.C., free of charge, they'll finally be able to check an item off their bucket list: see their memorials before it's too late.
What they didn't expect was the appreciation they received from friends, family and even strangers.
"It's beyond expectations," Bentgen says. "My gosh, they treat us like celebrities!"
They stand behind the women who currently serve the military and say it's not easy.
"I think there's more harassment for the girls; we didn't have the men with us because they were all fighting," Sleeper says. "Now, they've got to fight alongside the men."