Opal Roberts knows the importance of apparel. She remembers a uniform she wore that was made of “extremely high maintenance fabric”. While serving in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) her distinctive military attire was very thin and took much time and effort to wash, starch and iron. To keep herself looking crisp, she would force herself to stand during the bus ride to work and wouldn’t sit down until lunch.
She was raised in Slaton, Texas, the daughter of C.D. and Elsie Willis. Opal was the youngest of eight children, and it seemed appropriate for her to follow her father and four brothers into serving her country. Her eyes sparkled as she explained her motive for joining the service, “I went in to finish what they started.”
The regimented lifestyle and discipline was a good fit for young Opal at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. She remembered the only drawback was homesickness. “A lot of us cried at night in the beginning, and each night we girls sang 'The Lord's Prayer' for comfort. Being busy helped, and the Army kept us very busy."
Opal served stateside in the ER at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. The fast-paced tempo of that assignment forced her to learn quickly, and the autopsies she witnessed made a long-lasting impression. An opportunity arose in a different field and the young woman was transferred to Oklahoma, where she worked as a general’s receptionist at the McNair headquarters for a year and a half.
However, she had thrived in the medical field, so she was happy to go to work for several doctors at Fort Sill. Opal achieved the rank of Specialist 4th Class and credits much of her success to her parents. During the three years she was away from home, not a day went by that she did not receive a letter or package from her parents. "Mail call was the best time of the day." They supported her patriotism and prayed for the safe return of their youngest child.
After her honorable discharge in 1961, she met and married Ray Roberts in 1966 and raised three children in Andrews, TX. She has six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
When asked what she felt was her greatest achievement other than her service and family life, she lit up describing her time as a county librarian in Plains and Denver City.
Her most recent military experience was a trip to Washington DC courtesy of South Plains Honor Flight. The veteran’s eyes brimmed with tears as she recalled precious letters from family and children opened midair during the flight. Those letters warmed places in her heart that had lay dormant for years. Her memory took her back to the time when “mail call was the best time of the day.”
Mrs. Roberts is occupied again with the importance of apparel. Her church sponsors a live nativity scene every year at Christmas, and this 70-something female veteran has a passion for helping make it happen. She works tirelessly behind the scenes, and stands for hours dressed in period costumes, as part of a team whose mission is to remind South Plains residents of the true meaning of the season. Just like when she was a WAC, Opal intentionally puts on a “uniform” every Christmas. She continues to show others how it looks to live intentionally. “There are so many adventures out there, and I give God the glory for everything I have done in my life".
Written by Katherine McLamore - Texas South Plains Honor Flight Veterans Liaison / Committee Co-Chair / Volunteer Author for Senior Link Magazine
Edited by Marian Anderson – Volunteer