Becky Blanshan Colebank

   Branch: U. S. Navy

   Status: Veteran

   Date of Service: 1969 – 1972

   (Vietnam Era)

   Home Town: Shevlin

1. Becky Colebank   2. Becky receiving an award for helping recruit more women while home on leave 3. NNMC at Bethesda, Md. 4. Brooklyn Navy Yard

Becky Colebank was born January 2, 1951 to parents Bob and June Blanshan in Ottumwa, Iowa. She was raised in Nebraska and moved to Minnesota as a teenager. She graduated from Bemidji High School in 1969 and enlisted in the Navy since her dad was a WWII Navy veteran. She was sent to boot camp in Bainbridge, Maryland. After graduating from boot camp she was sent to NTC San Diego for data processing school. Just as her class was about to start Becky contracted a severe peritonsillar abcess which restricted her to the barracks for three weeks. Since the data processing class had started without her, she was given a choice of another MOS. 

She chose the hospital corps and was sent to Great Lakes, Illinois for training. Great Lakes was experiencing great upheaval at this time and she witnessed several race riots. Following graduation, Becky was given orders to report to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland. Bethesda is a suburb of Washington DC and the NNMC was the facility where presidents got their annual physicals. During her year at the hospital, she rotated through ward duty, walk-in clinic and the chest clinic. Many soldiers returning from Vietnam were patients on the wards there. In the chest clinic she tested soldiers for numerous lung diseases such as cocciodiosis. Her duty hours were spent working in the emergency room or on ambulance duty, accompanying wounded soldiers who had been flown into nearby Andrews Air Force Base.  Off-duty she spent wandering the streets of Washington DC, sometimes watching the Vietnam protests which were prevalent at that time.

At this time women were not allowed to serve on board ship and were not allowed to go overseas on their first enlistment. After a year at Bethesda Becky asked for orders to New York and was granted them. The Brooklyn Navy Yard was a relatively small duty station which served ships in the harbor  nearby. It had a small lab and sick bay. It was located in an unsavory neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant and the WAVES stationed there were cautioned to call a car rather than walk on the street. WAVES were not allowed to go in the nearby bars.

At first Becky was put on typing duty but then she was allowed to help with the discharge physicals of Marines coming from Vietnam, performing eye and ear exams among other things.  During her off hours she took advantage of the many perks sailors were given in NYC – Broadway plays, etc. She traveled all up and down the Eastern Seaboard during her year at Brooklyn.

Becky applied for an “early out” so that she could attend Bemidji State University when it started in September and was discharged in September. She used her GI Bill to attend school. A year after her release she married Wayne Hinrichs of Shevlin and they have three children:  Aaron, Gillian and Emily. They live northeast of Shevlin on 40 acres of hay land.

Becky spends her time volunteering for non-profits and writing local histories, especially military. She has published a general trivia book on Amazon and is currently working on another.


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