They just may be the coolest interviewees I’ve ever had.
Although they were only supposed to be guests to the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch’s grant recipient luncheon April 5, Marian Boyer and Millie Dost — 91-year-old twin World War II veterans — received a long, well-deserved standing ovation after Rotary International District 6960 Gov. Denise Hearn introduced them to the crowd.
The twins will be among the 60 World War II veterans Southwest Florida Rotarians will take on an Honor Flight in June to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Although neither has been to the Washington memorial before, both have visited The Armed Forces Military Museum in Largo.
“They always let us in,” Dost says, grinning.
These days, few groups command as much reverence as veterans of World War II. So, it’s shocking that when the sisters enlisted — Boyer in the U.S. Navy and Dost in the U.S. Army — they didn’t even tell their parents.
“Oh, it was a surprise to our mother,” Dost remembers. “She found out when someone from the Red Cross called and told her she should be so proud of us.”
The sisters were living apart from one another when Dost joined the Army in 1943. Her sister entered the Navy a week later.
Both served as nurses until the end of the war. Dost was first stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence, Ind., where she assisted soldiers injured overseas.
“I had never seen paraplegics before,” she says.
Boyer began her service in Portsmouth, Va., as a surgical nurse and later was transferred to Hawaii, which is where she was on V-J Day in August 1945.
Following the war, the two lived apart for decades. Boyer moved to Florida in 1966; Dost in 1979. Finally, eight years ago, the sisters reunited and now live together at Westminster Communities in Bradenton.
Despite living so much of their lives part, Dost and Boyer say they still share a unique tie that only twins know.
“We have a special bond,” Dost says. “We can finish each other’s sentences, things like that.”
And in June, the two will share in an experience they will never forget. The trip is a part of the Honor Flight Network, which began when six planes flew 12 World War II veterans from Springfield, Ohio, to the Washington memorial in May 2005. Since then, more than 81,000 veterans of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam have been able to view their memorials through Honor Flight.
Hearn and her husband, retired Col. Jerry Hearn, an Army veteran, said Honor Flight fits perfectly within Rotary’s mission of assisting seniors and children.
“These two found out about the Honor Flight and just called to thank us for doing something for the veterans,” Jerry Hearn says. “That’s how we met them.”
From all of us at the East County Observer, Marian Boyer and Millie Dost: We thank you for your service, courage and sacrifice.