"Dedicated to Family and Country

Updated: Apr 11, 2018

Lena “Lyn” Skaggs Duncan (a friend from school didn’t like Lena and said “I think I’ll call you Lyn” and the name stuck) was born on February12, 1924 in Derby, Virginia to Grover Cleveland Skaggs and Carrie Kirk Skaggs. Grover worked as an electrician and wired houses and businesses. She had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. She graduated from Pennington Gap High School in 1942 and attend King College in Bristol, Tennessee where she said she wanted a degree in “anything if it didn’t include taking a foreign language”.

Her dad had fallen ill around this time and Lena needed more money to support her family. She was working at a munitions factory in Bristol, Virginia at the time helping to load 20mm shells for the war effort. She said she was “only making about $32.00 per week and that wasn’t enough”. She told her dad she could make more money if she would enlist in the Armed Forces and she was able to send home $78 dollars a month and still have money left over each week. Approximately 400,000 women served in the armed forces during WWII and nearly 500 of them lost their lives serving their country, 16 in combat. As soon as she turned 20 years old, she joined the Navy Waves in March of 1944 and did her basic training in New York City. She said “New York was quite a sight for a country girl from Virginia”! On her first train ride, as soon as she stepped on, the train took off and she landed in an older man’s lap. He told her “they don’t wait for anyone to sit down, so grab the bar as soon as you get on next time”. Lesson learned. After basic training she was put on shore patrol for 3 months manning her post with nothing but her uniform and a nightstick. During WWII women were allowed to do almost any job except carry a firearm.