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Legionnaire Estelle Collins celebrated on 102nd birthday

A World War II and Korean War Women’s Army Corps veteran was recently celebrated on her 102nd birthday. Pike County American Legion Post 197 of Zebulon hosted a birthday party for 102-year-old Legionnaire Estelle Collins on Feb. 28 at Brightmoor Nursing Home.

The birthday celebration included Post 197 and Squadron 197 Honor Guard Team members, and American Legion Auxiliary representation, as well as Estelle Collin’s daughter, Marcia Collins, cousin Glenn Giddings, caretaker Deb Toney and her daughter Mary Warner, friends Pat English, Jan Hariss Joyce Banister, Linda Holder, and Pat Reeves and Brightmoor staaff and caregivers.

On Jan. 18, 1945, Estelle Simone Tidwell signed up for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Private Tidwell completed her basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. During WWII, Fort Oglethorpe served as an induction and processing center, and was a major training area for the Women’s Army Corps. Upon completion of basic training in February 1945, she was promoted to Private First Class, assigned to the Fifth Service Command at Camp Atterbury, Indiana where she completed 12 weeks at the Army Services Forces Surgical Technician training at the Wakeman Hospital Center.

Around the end of May of 1945, she was assigned to the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC. She worked in the surgical ward of the hospital. As a surgical technician, she administered medications, hypodermics and took temperatures and pulse while caring for military patients. She cleaned and sterilized instruments and prepared swabs and bandages. She requisitioned supplies for individual wards. She maintained records and reports pertaining to the progress of patients. Many of her patients were seriously wounded military members who were transferred from the various WWII theaters of operations. On Aug. 24, 1945, Private First Class Tidwell was promoted to Technician 5th Grade.

Tech 5 Tidwell was assigned to the Oliver General Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. She worked in the hospital surgical ward. She separated from the service as a Technician 5th Grade on August 26, 1946 at the Separation Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina having served the U.S. Army for a total of one year, seven months and eight days.

From August of 1946 to November of 1950, Estelle trained and then worked as a beautician. It was during this time, while traveling on a bus, she met her future husband Seaman Apprentice Robert Collins who was in the U.S. Navy on leave traveling on the same bus and sitting beside her. On July 6, 1950, the Korean War started.

Estelle Tidwell reenlisted in the Women’s Army Corps on Nov. 6, 1950 at Fort McPherson, Georgia. She was assigned to the Fort McPherson General Hospital. Again, she worked in the hospital’s surgical ward. Around May 9, 1951, she then was assigned to the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Forces Recruiting Main Station and Induction Station located in Birmingham, Alabama which was close to home. She was promoted to Corporal. On July 14, 1951 in LaGrange, Georgia, while both were on leave, Estelle married Robert Collins who was assigned to the USS Takelma which was operating from the San Diego Naval Station. After a few days together, Robert and the USS Takelma set sail for Pearl Harbor and further operations in the Pacific, and Estelle headed back to Birmingham.

On October 2,1951, CPL Collins received a Letter of Commendation from the Recruiting Command for exemplary service, and on October 10, 1951, she separated from the active reserves having served honorably and faithfully for a total of 11 months and four days. Her total active military service is two years, four months and 12 days. On Oct. 11, 1951, CPL Collins was reverted to the Enlisted Reserve Corps of the Alabama Military District attending monthly meetings at Fort McClelland, Alabama. On April 7, 1953, she was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army Enlisted Reserve status.

Sometime after getting out, Estelle joined the American Legion in Alabama. When she moved from Alabama to Georgia, her membership expired. In 2021, she renewed her membership, and received a new membership number of 205585799 and was assigned to the Georgia Post 400. On March 12, 2022, Legionnaire Collins was transferred to Post 197, Pike County, Georgia.

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