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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Military, Society, War, Women | 0 comments

The Wish of a 103-Year-Old World War II Veteran

Bea Cohen

When asked in a 2012 interview what she would like to accomplish that year, Ms. Cohen answered “…to collect clean, white socks for homeless veterans, and to meet First Lady Michelle Obama.”

Thousands — perhaps millions — of women would love to meet the First Lady. So what?

Bea Cohen, a World War II veteran and California’s oldest living female veteran, was 102 when she expressed that wish and is 103 now.

As I wrote in an Open Letter to the First Lady in June of last year:

Ms. Cohen, an immigrant from Romania, not only served honorably in our armed forces during World War II, but she is also one of the few people still alive who witnessed the beginning of World War I in 1914, when, at age four, she watched low- flying airplanes drop bombs on the factories near her home in Romania.

After the war, Ms. Cohen continued to serve her adopted country by working with Ex-POW and military family services groups and by contributing her time and effort to many veterans and philanthropic causes and organizations. She has continued to do so even after becoming legally blind in 1990 and after losing her husband and soul mate, Mr. Cohen, in 2003.

Bea Cohen is now one year older. For her this is a magnificent accomplishment, for us another year to be grateful for her continued presence and another opportunity to thank her, honor her and to try fulfill her modest wishes.

This past Memorial Day, the people of Redondo Beach, Ca. did exactly that when they presented Bea Cohen the American flag after it was retired during Memorial Day observances at Redondo Beach Veteran’s Park.

Others have continued to honor and thank Ms. Cohen for her World War II military service and for her subsequent 68 years of selfless volunteer service. In January, she was presented an award from the Redondo Veterans Memorial Task Force for her continued, passionate “crusade” for the welfare of U.S. war veterans.

Last year, “local hero” Bea Cohen received KCET’s — the nation’s largest independent public television station.– Women’s History Month Award and was featured in this touching video:

In June of last year, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno honored her during the Dodgers vs. Angels game at Dodger Stadium in events promoting the Army’s 237th Birthday. (Below)

Bea Cohen and Odierno

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno shakes hands with Bea Cohen at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif., where Odierno was participating in events to promote the Army’s 237th birthday. (DOD Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade.)

As to Bea Cohen’s wishes — things “she would like to accomplish” — well, she continues to collect clean, white socks for homeless veterans, bless her heart.

But as to her other wish, to meet First Lady Michelle Obama, I am sad and disappointed that this wish of this 103-year-old veteran has not yet been fulfilled.

In the Open Letter mentioned above, in addition to highlighting Ms Cohen’s background and service to country, I said:

Dear Mrs. Obama,

On February 3 of this year, a very special lady celebrated her 102nd birthday.

In keeping with the love and respect you have consistently shown for our troops and for our veterans, you were thoughtful enough to, on the occasion of her special day, send this lady your personal congratulations and your thanks for her service to our country.

As you will remember, this lady is Ms. Bea Cohen, California’s oldest living female veteran and indeed a national treasure.


When asked in a recent interview what she would like to accomplish this year, 2012, Ms. Cohen answered “…to collect clean, white socks for homeless veterans, and to meet First Lady Michelle Obama.”

Mrs. Obama, I know that Ms. Cohen will singlehandedly and easily accomplish her first objective.

But only you can make her second objective — her dream — come true.

As you know, we are losing our World War II veterans at a disturbing rate of 1,000 each day. For Ms. Cohen, at the age of 102, time is so precious and so is her wish to meet you.

I hope that you will be able to make Ms. Cohen’s wish come true.

Ever since then and every time I receive an e-mail from the White House asking for my support — an “I need you,” “Say you’re in,” or similar correspondence — I reply with my Open Letter, asking for the First Couple’s support to help make this Grand Lady’s wish come true.

In “All about Mrs. Bea Cohen,” a year ago I said, “We will see what we can do, Mrs. Cohen, to make your wish to meet the First Lady come true.”

I am still trying with even more urgency because time is certainly not on the side of one of the oldest and most deserving of our World War II veterans.

You, too, can help by contacting the First Lady.

Lead Image: Bea Cohen giving out blankets and socks to homeless veterans on her birthday. Courtesy California Department of Veterans Affairs

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post