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Jonesboro woman knows about military sacrifice

By Bob Paslay

Don't tell 69-year-old Sue Jester of Jonesboro about the military. She knows about it up one side and down the other.

Consider this. The Shellnutt Senior Center worker and retired federal employee had a father who served two years in World War I and had a husband who served in World War II and continued to serve until 1967. She also has a son who served four years in the Army but was stationed stateside and a son-in-law who served in Desert Storm as American and allied forces drove Iraqi soldiers out of Kuwait.

To hear her relatives' stories you can't help but wonder if she isn't a kind of lucky charm who kept them out of harm's way. None of them were wounded in all the combat they saw.

Her husband Hal served in the Coast Guard during World War II on an escort ship that accompanied destroyers from Brooklyn Shipyard to England.

Twice he "has destroyers shot out from under him" but didn't sustain any injuries.

"For 18 months he "didn't put a foot on dry land," she said as the escort vessels ferreted back and forth.

"I think it was a miracle" he wasn't wounded by the enemy attacks, she said.

"He was born on an island off Virginia and was raised on the water and was familiar with the water," she said. "His father was a commercial fisherman." So when the vessels got shot out from under him, he knew how to maneuver and survive in the water.

Her husband served in the Coast Guard from 1939 to 1948 and then joined the Marines until he retired in 1967. He died in 1978. Mrs. Jester still has his dress uniforms and insignias and pictures. A diary of his World War II experiences was given to one of their six daughters.

They met in 1956 when he was stationed in Atlanta.

Mrs. Jester said her father who served from 1916 to 1918 in France and England never talked much about his experiences in the medical corps.

After the war, he owned a hotel in Gadsden, Ala. and she would go and visit him there as a teen-ager since her parents had divorced earlier. And after marrying, she and her husband would go and visit.

"I didn't know anything about his war service until I was grown," Mrs. Jester said. "We would go visit him and my husband an he would sit up and tell war jokes. You know my father was very old-fashioned and he wouldn't tell war jokes in front of a woman."

Her son Arvid Yorkman was 19 when he joined the military and was stationed in Texas for his four years.

Her son-in-law Ronnie Butler, who now lives in Warner Robbins but was raised in Jonesboro, served in the Air Force during Desert Storm.

"Ronnie just said it was dry and dirty and all he wanted was a hot bath."

Mrs. Jester, who said she loves being around the other seniors at Shelnutt, laughingly describes herself as "quite a character" and her job as "go-fer." She has traveled with the seniors on trip to Hawaii and Italy.

She has decided views on the terrorist attack and whether you should be frightened and stop traveling and also on the current conflict in Iraq.

"If it is my time it is my time whether I am in the air or on the ground," she said. "I tell people get on the plane and go."

On the current war and the loss of American soldiers, she has some very strong views.

"I don't believe we should be there," she said. "I don't believe we should try and tell other countries how to live their lives and countries. Their lives are so intertwined with their religion, you are fighting them and their religion at the same time.

"It is almost a mirror of the Vietnam War. It is only going to get worse. We just need to back out June 30 and bring the boys and girls home."