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NEWS | Nov. 3, 2012

W.Va. National Guard members rescue a Rosie the Riveter after Sandy

By U.S. Army Sgt. Sara Yoke West Virginia National Guard

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. - Despite more than a foot of blinding snow outside, Maggie Selman and her dog Ginger were plunged into darkness in her home as Hurricane Sandy swept into West Virginia with a fury.

Selman, in her mid-80’s from Craigsville, W.Va., called the fire department requesting help, knowing she couldn’t make it without power very long.

"I was so surprised when I saw the National Guard coming in off the road," she said.

Access to her house was made treacherous and challenging because of the snow, and the Nicholas County emergency operations center arranged for assets from the W.Va. National Guard to assist her.

"The Soldier who came and rescued me, boy, he had to wade through snow waist deep," she said. "He had to clear a path just to take my walker and get me in the Humvee."

More than 350 W.Va. National Guard members are activated in counties most affected in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Some areas, such as Nicholas County, experienced snow accumulation of more than 18 inches.

Selman was taken to the Summersville Baptist Church Life Center where a shelter, manned by the Red Cross and volunteers, had been set up. Ginger was taken to a local pet store to be boarded.

"She’s my little buddy, they rescued her, too," she said.

Selman has spent the last three days in the shelter, appreciative of the help she had received thus far but eager to return home.

"I passed my time talking; I just like talking," she said.

She shared stories that intrigued everyone about this rosy-cheeked woman who was constantly smiling, moving about the place using her walker. Selman told stories that revealed her to be a true Rosie the Riveter, a woman who helped in the war efforts while the majority of working-age men were gone during World War II.

When her husband went to Europe in the middle of World War II, she left West Virginia to work in Akron, Ohio.

"I went to work for Goodyear Aircraft. I was a jack-of-all-trades. They trained me to be able to do anything they needed me to do including using a bucking hammer, an overhead drill, fastening rivets. I worked in the paint shop. I could do it all.

"While my husband was fighting the war, I was helping to make things to fight the war. I used my hands because my heart wasn’t there, he was in Europe."

Selman said women are just now getting the credit they deserve for their efforts during World War II. She worked to build fighting planes for almost two years.

During a visit to the shelter, W.Va. Air National Guard Lt. Col. Yancy Short overheard a Red Cross worker make the comment that Selman’s home had power again but required a 4-wheel drive vehicle to take her and her dog back.

"Personnel from the medical team for CERFP (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive) Enhanced Response Force Package) were able to take her – and her dog – back home," Short said. "We picked up Ginger from the pet store, and they didn’t even charge her. We made sure her structure was safe and secure."

Short, who is also a Nicholas County Commissioner and a surgeon in the area, really took on the role of neighbor helping neighbor. The National Guard helped rescue someone from a previous generation who had an integral part in a war effort – a real Rosie the Riveter – and then helped return her to her home.

"Neighbors helping neighbors – a silver lining in this whole mess of a storm," said Air Guard Master Sgt. Jason Young with the CERFP medical team. "People in West Virginia know each other. We know the hardships. We can’t help but help each other."