‘I was the soldier, not just the spouse’December 27, 2017
By OLIVIA INGLE
KYANA — Susan (Guimond) DeWitte was with her husband and father at the American Legion Post 147 in Jasper on Veterans Day this year when something happened that has happened quite a lot since her time in the Army.
The Girl Scouts were handing out cookies to veterans and gave her husband and dad some, but not her.
There was another time she wanted to join the American Legion Post 124 in Ferdinand and they insisted she join the Auxiliary.
“That irked me,” the Kyana woman said. “I was the soldier, not just the spouse.”
Susan proudly wears a shirt her mother gave her that says: “God found some of the strongest women and made them veterans.”
Susan served as a U.S. Army medic from 1993 to 1998. Her husband, Duke DeWitte, served in the Navy for a year in the early 1980s, and her father, Earl Guimond, served more than five years in the Navy in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Susan’s final year in the military was spent in South Korea as the senior medic taking care of the 350 soldiers on post. She had a staff of two civilians and a private and the team was in charge of much of the post’s primary care needs.
“Colds and flu and bangs and bumps,” she said. “There were no true emergencies while I was there.”
She said she had basic first aid training before going to South Korea, but most of her training happened there while on the job.
“I went from general surgery to more of a family practice,” she said. “I was responsible for all 350 soldiers, so I had to step it up.”
When asked about what it was like being a woman in a combat zone, Susan said she was fortunate that because she was a medic, she wasn’t treated any differently than anyone else.
“Everybody pretty much respected medics no matter what,” she said. “We’re the ones that can save your life.”
She made rank “really fast” and was a staff sergeant when she left the Army in 1998.
The daughter of Connie and Earl Guimond of Kyana, Susan was born in Massachusetts and grew up with three brothers in Norwalk, California. After high school, she wanted to become a doctor and began taking pre-med classes, but quickly learned that’s not what she wanted to do with her life.
She ended up training to be an EMT and was an ambulance driver in Los Angeles for five years. She gained a lot of experience on the job in LA before moving to Nevada where she was an EMT on the security force at a casino.
“Most calls were dehydration,” she said. “It was a whole different world. I didn’t use my EMT skills too often.”
As part of the security force, Susan was armed. “Most of my job was moving money around,” she said.
She joined the Army in 1993 because she “wanted more schooling and to be a nurse.
“It was a good way to get experience and an education,” she said.
She attended basic training in Missouri and was in Texas for four months before being stationed at Fort Benning for three years. Then came her tour in South Korea.
After Korea, she got out of the Army and went back to Nevada where she was a surgical assistant at a dermatology office. She then moved back to California in 2005 and used her GI Bill to go back to school. She graduated from California Baptist University in Riverside, California, in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.
That same year in 2006, DeWitte, her then boyfriend and now husband, Duke, her parents, two uncles, two aunts, a brother and a niece all decided to move to southern Indiana. Susan’s grandmother, Ella Able, lived her entire life in Birdseye.
“Patoka Lake is what attracted us to the area,” Susan said. “It’s beautiful here compared to California.”
Susan initially had a difficult time finding a job in the area and took a position at Kmart that involved management training and a two-year stint in Paducah, Kentucky. After her contract was up, she and Duke came back to southern Indiana.
They’ve since married and have two children — John, 9, and Analyse, 5. Susan was a teaching assistant the last six years, most recently at Ferdinand Elementary. She recently resigned to work from home. She and Duke own a concessions trailer and a resale business called I Remember This.
When Susan reflects on her childhood, time in the Army and living in various states, she realizes she’s been through many phases in life, but where she’s at now is right where she wants to be.
“I did a lot of moving around, traveling, sowing wild oats,” she said. “This is where I want to be, where I need to be.”
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