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Ashe County Veterans History Project: Barbara Mulrean


Barbara's Photos


OR School Graduation

Barbara Mulrean, née Zoskey, at Operating Room School Graduation on August 27, 1962 (center), with Capt. Felix Ballenger, chief of surgery, and Mrs. Edith Tepovich, Instructor.

Barbara's Story

Barbara (Zoskey) Mulrean served in the Navy as an operating room technician.  She enlisted in June 1961 and completed her term in June 1964.  During her military career, she was stationed at a USN Hospital in Great Lakes, IL, and another USN Hospital in Jacksonville, FL.

She shared the following reflections about her time in the service:

My parents were Leo and Jane Zoskey. My mother was a homemaker and my father was a dairy farmer until selling the business and becoming chief of police and constable. I have a sister, Linda, and brother, Tony; both younger.

I enlisted when I was 20. At that time, if you weren't 21, parents had to sign for you. My father refused to sign for me, and I told him I'd go in when I was 21 and he relented. I wanted to do something besides live at home and do mediocre jobs. The Navy offered what I wanted—to work in a hospital—and I was adamant about doing that when talking to the recruiter. I was sworn in in Pittsburgh, PA, and went to boot camp at Bainbridge, MD. I was selected for the color guard on graduation day. We were standing on the parade ground when I saw my dad's Studebaker Hawk pull in to park—what a surprise that was! I was not expecting that and tears started rolling. My dad hardly left Cambria County, PA, let alone go to MD. When we got home I found out he was proud to have a daughter in the Navy.

After boot camp, I went to Great Lakes, IL, for hospital corps school and operating room (OR) school. Jacksonville, FL, was my permanent duty station. Going from a new, up-to-date hospital at Great Lakes to a WWII, one-story, wooden building connected by ramps was quite an eye opener!

In boot camp, I was assistant recruit petty officer and in corps school I was platoon leader of the female half of our company—it was a mixed company. I discovered that some girls joined the navy to find a husband! In OR school, the OR was the classroom. I loved it.

Jacksonville was a new experience. Coming from the north and landing in the south in the early 60's was an education in itself. Several of the techs were from the south, didn't like Yankees and hated blacks. OR techs make up the medics in the field for the Marines. One morning we went to work and only another nurse and 2 strikers showed up. The whole OR crew, minus us, had been pulled out and put on the USS Boxer. The Cuban Crisis had come to a head and we were prepared from war, and we would have received the first casualties. Full-scale surgery went on with just our skeleton crew. Thank goodness war didn't happen and the Boxer and our guys came home. Things went back to normal until President Kennedy was assassinated. Our commander-in-chief was dead. It was a very sad time. That was November of '63, and in '64 I dated and married Jim Kastl, a lab tech, just a couple weeks before my enlistment was up. He had one more year to go, so I was a dependent wife. Our son, Scott, was born before getting out and going to Oklahoma where my husband's home was.

After he graduated from Oklahoma University Nursing School, I went to college on the GI Bill and got a degree in Vocational Home Economics but only taught one year. They hired me because they were looking to bring discipline and order to the school.  I told the students once, at the beginning of the year, that if they didn't follow the rules I set down they would have to wash windows and scrub floors with a toothbrush.  Needless to say, it was effective to bringing discipline and order to the high school students.

When Jim and I, divorced and I went back to my first love—surgery. I had worked at Norman Hospital for four years while he completed school.

I lived in Oklahoma 25 years. In 1989 my son married his wife, Thelma, an Ashe County native, after completing 4 years in the Marines. My son is, was, and always will be a Marine. He tells people it took 2 sailors to make a Marine.

I moved to Ashe County in 1990 to be close to them. I met and married Bill Mulrean in 1992.