Sailor relishes chance to retrace grandmother's steps on Okinawa
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — Petty Officer 3rd Class Claire Gwaltney never had a chance to meet her grandmother, but a trip halfway around the world is helping her feel a little closer.
Gwaltney’s grandmother, LaVerne Leineweber, served as an Army lieutenant in the Nurse Corps during the Battle of Okinawa and landed on the first day of the invasion. Gwaltney, who works in the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa’s Dermatology Clinic, said she thinks her grandmother served on the island for about a year, working at an aid station.
Since her grandmother died before she was born, Gwaltney never got to hear any stories about her grandmother’s service on the island. She said her grandfather, who was also in the Army and fought in France, never talks about the war.
Despite not hearing much about her grandmother’s time on the island, Gwaltney said getting stationed here has brought the two closer together.
“Being here definitely gives me a unique perspective and makes me feel closer to her,” said Gwaltney, who keeps two photos of her grandmother on her mantle, one of them being from Okinawa after the invasion.
Gwaltney said she especially thinks about her grandmother when she visits any of the numerous World War II memorials.
“The Okinawans treat all people who were here during the war, no matter what nationality, with a lot of respect,” she said. “So I think about her a lot when I go to places like that.”
Gwaltney’s mother recently visited her and they went to several of the war monuments here together.
“She was glad to be able to visit where her mom was,” Gwaltney said.
Gwaltney said she was excited when she found she had orders to Okinawa.
“I thought that maybe I was going to walk along the same beach that she walked,” she said. In addition to her excitement, Gwaltney said her family “was in awe” that she would be serving where her grandmother did 60 years prior.
While she said she will be a little sad to leave Okinawa when her tour is up, Gwaltney said she was “glad for the experience” to serve where her grandmother once did.