Veteran Nancy Britton was one of the few military females in attendance at Goddard High’s Veterans Day Assembly, Friday. Chaunte’l Powell Photo
Back in the late 1950s, women weren’t really seen working outside of the home, let alone serving in the military. Now picture a confident 18-year-old female, several shocked military men and you will get a glimpse into Nancy Britton’s life during that time.
Britton enlisted in the Air Force directly after high school and worked as a postal administrator. She was the first female in the Air Force to work in this field.
“The men didn’t know what to do with me then,” she said. “When I reported for duty, the guys kind of sneered at me because I was a female.”
Despite the environment, she did all the administrative work, pitched mail and worked behind the customer service window on Saturdays. She also hauled mail and helped with locator service, or helped get addresses filed when people moved.
She recalls military life being much more strict than it is today. Barracks were separated by gender, but the training was completed by all.
She said during basic training, she and other female soldiers had to do all the warfare maneuvers, marching, kitchen patrol and guard duty that the men had to do. She went through basic training for six weeks and when she graduated went to job training, as opposed to going to tech school.
The decision to join came from her desire to help support her parents financially while saving up enough money to pay for her college tuition.
Although her parents ultimately supported her decision, they were a little uneasy with the thought of their daughter entering what was essentially a man’s world.
“They were apprehensive,” she said. “Yet, my dad was more liberal and more open-minded. He gave me permission, but my mom was kind of hesitant about it. I went on anyway.”
Britton describes the two years she served as “a lot of fun.” She got out after she married and her husband at the time was given orders to move to Thailand. She said she would not have been able to cross-train because women were not used at the post office overseas.
She took care of her folks, but waited nine years after leaving the service to attend college. Within five years she had obtained her master’s.
She received both her bachelor’s and master’s from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. She double majored in Spanish and sociology for her bachelor’s and received her master’s in counseling and guidance and psychology. Her training and experiences in the military carried over into the classroom.
“I like to work with people,” she said. “It’s something I learned in the military, working behind the window as different people came to pick up their mail and make purchases.”
Because she enjoys settings where she’s able to help people, she felt she’d be better equipped to work in schools helping children. She counseled in schools for 30 years throughout southeastern New Mexico in addition to counseling in private sector. Her most rewarding feeling was when the children she spoke with “felt good about themselves and actually changed their behavior and improved their academics.”
Originally from Rio Grand Valley in Texas, Britton has had the opportunity to travel to Kansas, Oklahoma Nebraska, Japan, and various other locations before ending up in New Mexico. She’s lived in Roswell for the past 13 years, and has been retired for the past six.
Since retiring she’s been doing volunteer work with the Senior Circle, and is very active with the American Legion, where she serves as the finance officer. She’s also a member of the Veterans Honor Guard, assisting with military services for the deceased. She takes great pride in being able to help with the funerals of fallen soldiers.
“That’s quite an honor to do that, because we’re providing service for veterans who also served and have now gone on to the beyond,” she said. “So it’s a good feeling to do the honors.”
She looks forward to attending veterans activities around the area, for example, the assembly at Goddard High School Friday, because “it gives recognition to the veterans for their time spent in the service and defended the country.”
She’s also active in her church, sending out birthday cards and reminding people of birthday parties. Doing so allows her to show the love of God to others and let them know that there are people out there who do care and are thinking of them. Square dancing is also an interest of hers and she can be seen doing a do-si-do at the Adult Center.
When she’s not busying herself volunteering throughout Roswell, she enjoys spending time with her family. Britton has one son, six grandkids and two great-grandkids, who she enjoys visiting often. She also has family in California, and a sister in Dallas to whom she’s very close and looks forward to seeing on holidays.