Theresa Freed: [00:00] On this week's episode you'll hear from Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert and Johnson County Director of Public Affairs and Communications Jody Hanson. As they shared details of this year's Veterans Day observance. They'll talk about why the County is committed to honoring those who serve their country. You'll also hear from several female veterans who called Johnson County home. They'll describe life in the military among those to share their story, a woman who is 105. Finally a veteran will describe why she continues to serve now for the Sheriff's office.
Announcer: [00:31] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.
Theresa Freed: [00:45] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host, Theresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. Today we're talking about Veterans Day this year on November 11th at 11:00 AM Johnson County celebrates all the trends of all Wars with a special ceremony. This year we're specifically calling attention to the wonderful contributions in service of female veterans in the County. To share more about this focus and the details of the event. I'm joined by Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert and Johnson County Public Affairs and Communications Director Jody Hanson. Welcome and thank you both for being here today.
Ed Eilert: [01:19] Well, thank you for the opportunity.
Theresa Freed: [01:21] All right, well let's go ahead and get started with the chairman. Can you talk about the County hosting this event each year? And why does this mean so much to the community?
Ed Eilert: [01:30] Well, the event is being has been hosted by the County I'm told since 1987, so a little over 30 years. And we are fortunate to Gerald Hay who is in our public information office. He himself is a Vietnam vet and Gerald is dedicated to really presenting outstanding programs honoring our veterans. This year we are honoring the women veterans from all Wars and so it should be a extraordinary celebration. We've been able to hold the event in recent years at, at various locations around the County in the cities who have Memorial parks dedicated to veterans and honor thereof. So this year we'll be in Olathe.
Theresa Freed: [02:20] And I know a lot of work in preparation has gone into making this event possible. So Jody, if you can share with us some of the details of the event and also who will be speaking.
Jody Hanson: [02:29] We are thrilled with the lineup we have this year and every year. We just had the pleasure of working with so many great partners to make this event happen. I'm glad you mentioned Gerald because he really is the heart and soul of this event and reaches out to make it happen. This year. We're scheduled to have U.S. Representative Sharice Davids speak. Her mother Crystal served two decades in the army, so we're really interested to, for her perspective, other speakers are Lieutenant Colonel Molly Gillock who is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a member of the Kansas National Guard. We also have Louise Eisenbrandt who goes by Lou. She's a combat nurse and veteran from the Vietnam War. She's one of the women featured in the November-December, Best Times.
Theresa Freed: [03:10] Okay. So a great lineup of speakers and chairman. You mentioned that we kind of look at it at honoring all veterans at each of these events, but we sort of call attention to special groups of people. So why this year are we looking at female veterans?
Ed Eilert: [03:25] Well, last year it was the Vietnam Veterans that we had special honors activities for. And so this year we're pleased to be able to honor our women veterans. I think many times we lose sight of the fact that many, many women have served in our armed forces over the decades and especially in recently years the number of women who are on active duty with the military. And so we're pleased to be able to honor them this, this session.
Theresa Freed: [04:02] All right. Should be a great event and we're very excited to have at this event this year. A female veteran who just turned 105. So we're looking forward to her, hopefully being able to join us for the Veterans Day observance. She was also featured along with three other women in the most recent edition of The Best Times that you heard about. That's the free publication that is delivered to older adults of Johnson County. Eric Schultz, our videographer at Johnson County. And as you also heard, Gerald Hay, a writer and editor of the best times teamed up to tell the stories of the women in Johnson County who have served their country.
Eric Schultz: [04:39] [Music] They met for the first time at this photo shoot, Mary Cox, Mabel Johnson and Louis Eisenbrandt appreciated the significance of the moment. These three Johnson County women from three different eras served their country in three different wars. A fourth deputy Hana Modrell couldn't make it. She went from serving her country to serving her community, working in the patrol division of the Johnson County Sheriff's office. In Recent years, Johnson County's official Veterans Day observance has recognized a variety of veterans. This year, it's giving special recognition to women who served.
Mary Cox: [05:18] I think we're really touched that Johnson County is, is going to honor women this year and appreciate it cause I do think they kind of are the invisible veterans.
Eric Schultz: [05:29] Mabel Johnson grew up in an era when women didn't serve at all, at least not in the coast guard. It changed in world war II when men in the coast guard we're needed for duty overseas. It opened up an opportunity for Mabel the
Mabel Johnson: [05:42] The war came. And at that time I thought, oh, all these soldiers are going, maybe I can do something.
Eric Schultz: [05:52] So she signed up. Mabel was assigned to the Coast Guard station in Cleveland where she did office work. At age 105, she can look back on those years and know she played a part in the allies victory. Unlike Mabel, Louise Eisenbrandt, "Lou" for short, saw the ravages of war up close. She served in Vietnam as a nurse at an army evacuation hospital. She was 22 at the time and says nursing school could not prepare her for what she was about to see.
Lou Eisenbrandt: [06:22] Seeing the wounds, the things that the guys would come in with. Missing two legs, maybe two arms in a leg. Severe head wounds, which were often fatal.
Eric Schultz: [06:35] Although her tour of duty lasted one year. Her sacrifice continues to this day. Lou has been living with Parkinson's Disease, which the VA has confirmed is related to her exposure in Vietnam to the chemical Agent Orange.
Lou Eisenbrandt: [06:49] There was little thought given to what the after effects of that was going to be.
Eric Schultz: [06:55] Mary Cox started her career as an army nurse. As America was pulling out of Vietnam. She never deployed there, but in the 20 years that followed, she was stationed around the world. Her war experience came during Operation Desert Storm.
Mary Cox: [07:09] We were probably one of the main hospitals that took care of enemy prisoners of war. We had separate wards for the enemy prisoners of war versus our soldiers. We had to keep the Republican Guard away from the Iraqis main guys and we operated on them a lot.
Eric Schultz: [07:26] It was a place where the staff had to wear gas masks to protect themselves in case of a chemical weapons attack. Chemical weapons are something. Hana Modrell knows all about. Here you see her following in her father's footsteps at Airborne school, but she also received specialized training in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. She took that expertise to Afghanistan, overseeing the defense of a forward operating base against those types of threats. When her army service ended, Hana wanted to make use of her criminal justice degree. That's when she came to the Sheriff's office.
Hana Modrell: [08:00] After my service in the military, I decided I wanted to continue to serve maybe not my country this time, but as a smaller community so I could see the results of my service.
Eric Schultz: [08:09] Service is the thing that binds all these women. On Veterans Day. Johnson County will give them and all the women who serve the recognition, they deserve.
Theresa Freed: [08:24] So those are some great stories and if you can't make it out to the Veterans Day event, we'll stream that live on Facebook and we'll also live tweet the ceremony. And Jody, do you have anything that residents really need to know if they're planning on heading out
Jody Hanson: [08:37] In between the speeches, we're going to have some patriotic music, which we're really excited about. We do presentation of colors. There's a beautiful ceremony where we, different people place Memorial wreaths representing local veteran organizations.
Theresa Freed: [08:51] Hopefully people come out and we have a great crowd and if you can't make it out again, be sure to follow us on social media and we'll be able to give you all the details right there. And again, you can check out the video story of the three women on our website. That's jocogov.org. And thank you both for being here.
Jody Hanson: [09:06] Thanks for having us.
Theresa Freed: [09:09] And for a little more from one of the women featured in that story we have with us Hana Modrell. Thanks for being here. All right, well first off, just tell us a little bit about your service in the military.
Hana Modrell: [09:20] So I started, I was a officer in the military, so I went to school first at Central Missouri and got my commission through them. So I started as a Second Lieutenant and I was commissioned into the chemical Corp the U S Army. So I did some training at Fort Leonard Wood for a few months. Shortly after then I was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. From there I deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. I was there for about six months.
Theresa Freed: [09:44] Okay. And what was that like?
Hana Modrell: [09:46] Afghanistan? Not my favorite place. It was pretty hot. And the area we were in was relatively kinetic. So there was some quite a bit of fighting. However where I was stationed was there was not as much. So the FOB I was on was relatively safe.
Theresa Freed: [10:03] Okay. And so what sort of motivated you to get into military service?
Hana Modrell: [10:07] My father, he was in the army. He served during Vietnam. He was a Green Beret and growing up he always told stories about it and I always heard that and became interested and he told me due to just my personality and my discipline, I should think about going into the military. He told me he wanted me to go air force cause they have the best food and the best lodging. But I said, I want to be like you. So I went Army,
Theresa Freed: [10:30] You're now serving the, the Sheriff's office and serving the public in a different capacity. So what motivated you to do that?
Hana Modrell: [10:37] So my husband and I were both in the military, but we made the decision to both get out. We wanted to be around family again. However, that desire to serve was still there. So I wanted to serve my community on a more, a smaller level so that I could see the impact a little bit more.
Theresa Freed: [10:52] And what are some of the rewards of, of both of your, your service in the military and for the Sheriff's office?
Hana Modrell: [10:57] Just knowing that I can make a difference everyday that I go to work. It's fun. It's a problem solving every day you get to solve different people's problems and see that impact immediately.
Theresa Freed: [11:08] All right. And any thoughts today on just the, the focus this year focusing on women in the military?
Hana Modrell: [11:15] Sure. I think it's appreciated by all women. Especially the women that served before me. They were really the people that led the way and made it possible for women of my generation to do what we can do. So I really appreciate it.
Theresa Freed: [11:28] It. All right, well thank you very much for your service. And also thanks for joining us today.
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