On Friday, April 10, 2020, I learned that World War ll Army veteran Lillian Aronson had passed. At 102, she was just three months shy of her 103rd birthday. Lillian was born in Salem and at the age of 26 she volunteered for the military and was assigned to the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), later known as Woman’s Army Corps (WAC).
Lillian was a pioneer in the WAC, leading the charge for women in the military. Lillian continued to serve 20 years of active federal service in the Army, and achieved the rank of Sergeant First Class prior to her retirement. She then started her next career, serving the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the Department of Unemployment for 30 years before retiring once again. Lillian then served as a career volunteer. She became a state and national icon for the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, the Disabled American Veterans and the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford.
On the morning of Sunday, April 12, family members, guests and veterans attended her private memorial service under the strict guidelines for the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The attending funeral representative informed us of the guidelines; “shelter in place” was defined as, stay in your car and do not come out of your vehicle. “Social distancing” was defined as, you can observe the memorial service from your car. The distance from my car to Lillian’s burial site was about 36 feet. We were sad to learn that military burial honors are not available to Veterans who pass during this public health crisis.
Upon the completion of Lillian’s memorial service, I deliberately waited and was the last car to leave the cemetery. I was able to leave my car, place an American flag and a memorial medallion signifying that Lillian was a member of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America at the head of Lillian’s grave site. I recited the Mourner’s Kaddish and rendered a final slow-motion hand salute to Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army (Retired) Lillian Aronson.