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Staff Sergeant Daniel M. O’Rourke Remembered

Members of the Star Spangled Unit of the WAC Exhibit Team including SSGT O’Rourke in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 28, 1967 with LTC Mildred Bailey and Mrs. Beatrice Burns, wife of Hawaii’s Governor and Army Nurse Corps veteran.

Member of 1966-67 Star Spangled WAC Unit Remembered.

Staff Sergeant Daniel M. O’Rourke had a varied military career but his most memorable tour was with the Women’s Army Corps Exhibit Team as it traveled the country with the Star Spangled Pageant.  The pageant started in 1963, the 21st anniversary of the WAC, as part of an Army public relations program to promote the future of women in the military.  Lieutenant Colonel Mildred I.C. Bailey was selected to head the team with a mission to educate people about WAC life, talk about the jobs open to women and to increase recruitment.  The small team of WACs, with LTC Bailey and O’Rourke, traveled the US giving presentations to clubs, schools, civic organizations and other groups.  The WACs modeled historic outfits as well as women’s military uniforms from the past and present – all to tell the brave stories of women’s contributions to this country. 

No exhibiting tour is complete without an excellent narrator that can tell the stories of the women that helped create the United States.  O’Rourke was chosen as the narrator during the 1966-1967 timeframe and he was a superb storyteller. His job was considered to be the envy of many soldiers with one officer signing a promotional picture of the pageant addressed to O’Rourke with the quote “The only man I would change jobs with”.  O’Rourke had very fond memories of LTC Bailey, who was later promoted to Brigadier General and became WAC Director from 1971-75. According to his son, Tom, his dad felt a sense of duty and dedication to LTC Bailey and a strong bond with the WAC team.

During O’Rourke’s assignment to the Exhibit Team, he visited many places to include Texas, North Dakota, Florida, California, Hawaii and Wisconsin and had an opportunity to meet Vice President Hubert Humphrey. O’Rourke’s narration skills and enthusiasm were top-notch and attracted the attention of a primetime news network, says his son. Although offered the job, O’Rourke declined as it wasn’t his dream.

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O’Rourke served in the Army from 1962 to 1968 then moved back to civilian life where he spent 40 years in the transportation business in Wisconsin.  Daniel Martin O’Rourke (age 79) passed on in November. His family was well aware of his fond memories of his time as the WAC Exhibit narrator, and has asked that donations be made to support the Army Women’s Museum at Ft Lee.  O’Rourke was in attendance at the dedication of the Museum in 2001 when it was relocated to Ft Lee, Va.  Information on donating is at armywomensmuseum.org/donate/ or can be mailed to Friends of the Army Women’s Museum Association (FAWMA), PO Box 1027, Prince George, VA 23875.

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