WASHINGTON (NEWS CENTER Maine) – Norma Merrill held back tears as the rain fell over the World War II Memorial in Washington.
Her eyes clouded as she and her daughter visited the site for the first time.
“I didn’t think I would feel so bad,” she said.
Merrill never saw combat, but what she did in the Navy was not something anyone could know about.
“They told us not to tell anyone,” she said. “I coded and decoded messages.”
It was not until just five years ago she told her family, after WWII was considered “declassified.”
“I knew there was a story,” her daughter Jane Sullivan said. “I didn’t know what it was and we were all pretty surprised”
She first joined the Navy intending to become a nurse. Instead, she was just 21-years-old when she was trained to decipher life or death messages in the heat of war.
“A special bus took me to and from the Navy department so I couldn’t be captured and give them the code,” Merrill said.
Merrill now lives at the Maine Veterans' Home in Scarborough. This weekend was the chance for her to reflect on her service alongside dozens of other Veterans for Honor Flight Maine, all of them men.
There was a special dedication for Merrill at The Women's Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery as part of the trip.
Her story and photo are now saved in a database there of women Veterans from across the country.
While she is proud of her time serving our country, she said she hopes we never see war again.
“People don’t realize what happened to our young men,” she said.
You can follow along on the journey here.