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WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is celebrating the 101st birthday of Navy veteran Mabel Thomsen in this edition of ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans. 

Thomsen was born in Des Arc, Arkansas on May 1, 1917. She grew up on a family farm with her five siblings, helping tend to the cotton and other crops.

In 1944, Thomsen’s husband was serving in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii. He urged her to join the military. “I went to the Navy so they’d send me to Hawaii,” Thomsen said. Instead of the Aloha state, she went to boot camp in New York.

She remembers what she did at the end of the day to cope with the conditions of boot camp. “I sat with my feet in hot water every night. I had to walk everywhere in those GI shoes they gave us. It was awful.” 

Thomsen was in the hospital corps and assisted doctors with female patients. She remembers nearly having to deliver a baby, but the doctor arrived just in time.  

During her 20-year Navy career she was stationed all around the country, but never Hawaii. She was assigned to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Memphis when she met Elvis Presley - the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ during a USO show. “He said anybody that had a string of beads could sit in his lap. I happened to be wearing a string of beads so I got to sit in his lap,” she fondly recalled. 

Thomsen retired as Chief Hospital Corpsman. She said says would recommend a military career to young Americans.

“I am grateful for Mabel Thomsen’s dedication and service to our nation. Her memories of her military service are an important part of our history and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve her stories,” Boozman said.

Boozman submitted Thomsen’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.