99-year-old Indiana veteran immortalized in award-winning photo

Data pix.

Editor's note: We previously reported Vera Nuckols is 98, but she is actually 99. The script has been corrected to reflect this.

It's a story 70 years in the making.

A World War II veteran who to this day is inspiring us all to serve.

"I met my boyfriend after we graduated from high school," said Vera Nuckols nostalgically.

"In the meantime, he was drafted. And I thought 'Well, I’m gonna do something.' So, I went out to give blood," she said.

The year was 1944.

And Nuckols, determined to serve her country, was about to make a decision that would change the course of her life.

"I weighed 106 pounds and you have to weigh 110 pounds. And I thought, 'Well I’ll fool you.' So I walked across to Fort Harrison and enlisted."

Two weeks later, she left Indiana for Women’s Army Corps basic training in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

She was well on her way to becoming a mess sergeant, supervising cooks and bakers and feeding Army and Air Force trainees on their way into battle.

"I knew I wanted to be a part of the effort. And I figured that you know food service is part of it because the army moves on its stomach," Nuckols said with a smile.

She served in Arkansas and Georgia until the war ended in 1945.

But not before…

"He called me, and we were engaged. He sent my ring, my engagement ring through the mail," Nuckols said with pride.

She wed her high school sweetheart who was stationed all the way in California.

The two love birds finally together.

A couple fighting a war, married in uniform.

Nuckols said, "We went to Little Rock and got our marriage license, and we were married in the post chapel where I was stationed."

It was the perfect love story.

For a moment.

"It just gripped me," Sarah Crail said.

A picture.

"Sometimes the most impactful are the most unexpected," said Crail.

Just Nuckols' hands and her dog tags.

"It just makes me proud that I served. I’ve always been proud that I served, and I’m quick to tell you," said Nuckols.

"I just thought, 'Hey hold up your dog tags and let me zoom in on your hands.' And I just felt there was a compelling story there," Crail remembered.

Crail met Nuckols through Indy Honor Flight.

And an artistic eye found living history.

"Have that sense of respect for her and gratitude for her service," Crail said.

"I hope that she finds that people haven’t forgotten her or haven’t forgotten her service. She’s loved by many, many people."

She’s loved for what we now see frozen in time.

Her love of country.

"I don’t say that I sacrificed. I just say that I volunteered with my whole heart to do what I did.  To me it wasn’t a sacrifice," Nuckols said proudly.

Crail's photo of Nuckols' hands won first place at this year's Indiana State Fair.

You can also find Nuckols' life story on display at the Women’s Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery.

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