Rhonda Sterling — First Lieutenant Rhonda Sterling — straight and slim in her tan uniform, jaunty cap and immaculate white gloves, stepped with military bearing from the United Airliner at the Sacramento Airport. Her spirits were high for it was a day to be excited. At last she was reporting for duty at her first base hospital, McClellan Air Force Base, in California, to begin her career as an Air Force nurse.
Walking from the aircraft, she was unmindful of eyes focused admiringly on her. She knew that the trim uniform which she wore with such great pride complemented her raven black hair, her dark eyes. And that the silver bar on each shoulder, signifying her rank, was as lovely as a jewel.
As she came abreast of the gate she saw another girl about her own age in an Air Force uniform waving to attract her attention. She waved back, smiled, wondering if she should salute as she had been taught at training school at Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama, from which she had departed only five hours ago.
The girl, a blonde and quite pretty, threaded her way through the little group of people. “You must be Lieutenant Sterling!”
“Yes, I’m Rhonda Sterling.”
“I’m Kay O’Dell,” she replied warmly, grasping her hand. “Major Bartlett, the chief nurse, asked me to meet you.”
“Oh, how terribly nice,” Rhonda said, realizing as they shook hands a salute would have been out of place in such an informal atmosphere.
“No cab for a new recruit at this base,” Lieutenant O’Dell said and pointed to the parking area. “See! A staff car, no less. If you’ll give me your baggage ticket, I’ll have the driver pick up your gear.”
Rhonda retrieved it from the purse that hung from her left shoulder, and Lieutenant O’Dell handed it to the uniformed airman waiting at the fringe of the crowd. “Airman Brown,” she ordered politely, “will you please get Lieutenant Sterling’s hand luggage at the claim station?”
“Yes, ma’am.” The young airman jauntily saluted the two nurses. Rhonda wondered if she would ever get used to being saluted.