Weatherford Democrat

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September 21, 2012

A pioneer of women in the military

PARKER COUNTY — Jean Conner Buford is somewhat of a pioneer when it comes to women serving in the military.

Growing up in the small town of Haskell, near Abilene, it was just her and her sister, and a lack of male siblings prompted her to join the military.

“I didn’t have any brothers so I figured it was up to me to enlist,” she said.

At the time, women had to be 21 to enlist without consent from a parent or guardian.

Not yet of age when the United States joined World War II, Buford enrolled at Texas Tech. Upon graduation in 1944, at the age of 21, she joined the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services).

Buford attended boot camp in the Bronx at Hunter College.

Following that, she attended mail clerk school, making the move to Manhattan.

“I worked at a fleet post office in the Victory-mail section,” she said.

At a friend’s suggestion, Buford transferred to New Orleans, where she and her friend were seperated.

“I was sent to the Armed Guard Naval Repair base, where they had a post office as big as one in a small town,” she said. “All together, I was [in the service] for about 19 months.”

During her time there, Buford also participated in the Singing Platoon, a group of women entertainers.

“Everywhere we marched, we sang,” she said. “I was a singer all of my life until my son died.”

Through her travels, she has several fond memories, including visits to Madison Square Garden in New York City and Canal Street in New Orleans.

“My daddy was a World War I veteran,” Buford said. “Mine was quite the experience, and I’m glad that I did it.”

Buford’s husband Forest Bradley Buford, who likewise grew up in Haskell, was also a military veteran.

He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps 8th Air Force 306th Bomb Group during WWII and was discharged in 1946.

“We had known each other since we were in the fifth grade,” she said. “I liked him all right, but at that time, you didn’t have enough money to go steady and date.

“We had our simple fun.”

When Jean Buford went off to Lubbock for college, Brad went to San Antonio. The couple wouldn’t see each other for another seven years.

“When we got back, he asked me on a date,” she said. “It took me three years to catch him and I finally convinced him to go to college.”

Brad Buford attended Texas A&M and acquired an engineering degree. During his career, he was instrumental in engineering streets, pools and other facilities for Horseshoe Bend.

He died in 2008 due to health problems. The couple had been married for 40 years.

After being a stay-at-home mom, Jean Buford put her elementary education degree to work, filling in as a subsitute music teacher on occassion and working at the Weatherford Public Library.

These days, she stays busy with First Baptist Church and members of the community.

“I visit three rest homes every Monday, I sing at the Senior Center and I make calls to people that are house-bound every Wednesday,” she said.

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