Chelsea woman honored for her World War II service

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Silver Maples resident and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bertha Santos Holmstrand, seated in middle, holds her certificate of honor while her daughter Dr. Karen Holmstrand Moise looks on at right and SCA Regent Lauren Smith stands. photo by Lonnie Huhman

Although she was very humble in receiving the recognition, there is no doubt that World War II veteran Bertha Santos Holmstrand deserved the honor given to her at a special ceremony held in Chelsea on June 4.

To honor her service and to show a deep appreciation, the Sarah Caswell Angell (SCA) Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution presented a certificate of recognition to Silver Maples resident Holmstrand before her family and friends.

“This is a great honor. I really don’t deserve this,” said Holmstrand.

“I feel humbled,” she said. “Thank you for thinking of me.”

Holmstrand served with valor and distinction in the U. S. Marine Corps during World War II. The ceremony was held in the Garden Room of Silver Maples Retirement Community.

The SCA Chapter was contacted by the Daughters of the American Revolution Arizona State Chair for Service to Veterans about presenting the new DAR WWII Certificate to Holmstrand. The SCA said the requestor was DAR member Gayna Scott, who wished to honor her “Aunt Bertha.” Scott’s mother served in the Marines with Holmstrand and remained life-long friends with her.

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism. Its members are descended from the patriots who won American independence during the Revolutionary War. With more than one million members in approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide, DAR is one of the world's largest and most active service organizations.

During the presentation, SCA Regent Lauren Smith expressed the nation’s gratitude and described this remarkable veteran’s service as a Marine more than 75 years ago.

A photo on display at the ceremony of Bertha Santos Holmstrand during her service in the Marines.

Smith said the Women’s WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. exhibits two plaques featuring Staff Sergeant Bertha Santos.

“The Women in Military Service for America plaques list her service in the Marines from June, 1943 to January, 1946,” Smith said. “These plaques describe memorable experiences, in Bertha’s words. Excerpts include, “I enlisted in June, 1943 because my fiancé, William Thomas Hanna, was killed in Guadalcanal in 1942. He was awarded the Navy Cross, then a destroyer Escort was named in his honor, Bertha was Maid of Honor at the launching.”

After basic training, Holmstrand attended the Aerology Course at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, and then she was assigned to The Aerology Office at the Marine Corps Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina in 1944.

Aerology studies the atmosphere and is a branch of meteorology involving the observation of the atmosphere by means of balloons, kites, rockets, drones, airplanes, etc.

In 1944, Smith said Holmstrand lectured in Portuguese to the Portuguese Educational Society on activities of Women Marines and made nine radio broadcasts for the Office of War Information and the Office of Inter-America Affairs. These broadcasts were given in five different languages.

As a child, Holmstrand lived in Brazil with her mother and father for a time.

In 1945, she served as a Portuguese interpreter to classes that included a Brazilian General and Colonels. She was also an interpreter in Spanish and Portuguese to a class of Inter-American Defense Committee Members.

Smith said for a bond drive in New York, Holmstrand was a lecturer at an Aerology Exhibit and was awarded a citation for selling over a million in War Bonds.

After her active duty service, Holmstrand served an additional 10 years in the reserves.

She was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

“Bertha, thank you for your service to defend our nation and freedom,” Smith said. “May God bless and protect all our active military and veterans!”

The ceremony was attended by Holmstrand’s daughter, Dr Karen Holmstrand Moise; her son-in-law Phil Moise; granddaughter Katherine Moise and SCA members Martha Valen, Denise Frost and Allana McGuire as well as Silver Maples staff and residents.

Bertha Santos Holmstrand, sitting in the middle, with her granddaughter Katherine Moise (sitting far left) and her daughter Dr. Karen Moise (sitting to Bertha's left) pose with SCA members in attendance. photo by Lonnie Huhman
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