Pembina County WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday
Ruth Shephard is only one of about 30 female World War II veterans still alive in North Dakota.
GRAND FORKS — When you have celebrated as many birthdays at Ruth Shephard, it's easy to lose count of how old you are.
Her grandson Thomas Shephard had to help her remember.
"Am I 100?" Ruth asked Thomas at her birthday party.
"Yeah," he replied.
"Feels pretty old," she said.
Ruth Shephard was born and raised in Grafton, North Dakota. At age 22, she became part of North Dakota history when she volunteered her skills as a nurse and served with the U.S. Army in World War II.
"We had probes and would help people and give them shots," she said, explaining her duties.
According to a database provided by the Veterans Administration, Ruth Shephard is only one of about 30 women still alive in North Dakota who served in World War II.
It's unknown if any of them are 100.
"It's a legacy that we're proud of," said her grandson.
After returning from the war, Ruth Shephard met another World War II veteran. They married after just three dates and raised three children on a farm in Crystal, North Dakota.
For nearly 70 years she never talked about her time at war with her family except on a few occasions.
Ruth Shephard was always quick to remind the love of her life she was a 2nd lieutenant with the U.S. Army, her husband was only a sergeant.
"If they would be having a disagreement at the kitchen table, 'I outrank you, remember that,' kind of thing," said her daughter Carol Grabow. "So they had a lot of sweet moments that way."
It wasn't until a trip on the WDAY Honor Flight in 2016 when she opened up to her family for the first time about her service.
"I wanted to do something important, something good, so that's why I joined the Army," Ruth Shepard said during an interview during the honor flight. "I guess I was young enough not to know any better."
She was the only female on the Honor Flight of nearly 100 servicemen. The front page of the Forum called her a "trailblazer."
"The thing that struck my heart the most was when she talked about after she would be on duty, she would take a second shift, and she would go over to the prisoner of war tent and she would take a shift there," said Grabow.
While she may be short on war stories, she has words of wisdom to celebrate 100 birthdays.
"I get up in the morning and just try to get along," she said with a laugh.