Bobbie Mershon's reasons for volunteering for duty during the Vietnam War came from the heart.
The Canal Winchester City Council member's future husband had received his orders to head to Southeast Asia. She was young and in love.
"I remember being asked, 'Lieutenant, why do you want to leave sunny California?" said Mershon, who at the time was assigned to Fort Ord in Monterey, California, where she worked in the pediatric clinic.
Her next stop was the 93rd Evacuation Hospital, a burn center, in Long Binh, Vietnam.
Mershon and her husband, Dan, are among the 11 grand marshals selected for Columbus' Red, White & Boom! Parade, which will start at 6 p.m. Monday, July 3.
The annual event draws nearly 500,000 people to downtown Columbus and concludes with a 26-minute fireworks show launched from COSI.
"I feel like I've just won the lottery, if you want to know the truth," Mershon said of her participation in the parade. "My husband and I didn't do anything special. We both went to Vietnam and did our jobs. But I feel like I stand in for all the nurses who were there during the Vietnam War."
Roberta Jean Foote Mershon is the daughter of a nurse who inspired her to follow in her footsteps.
When the Vietnam War began, Mershon was attending St. Vincent's School of Nursing in Indianapolis. While there, she learned about a U.S. Army program in which senior nursing students could enlist as privates first class and earn $135 a month.
Following graduation, the new nurses would be discharged and commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army Nurse Corps with a two-year commitment.
While assigned to Fort Ord, Mershon met her husband, a captain, at a New Year's Eve party at the Junior Officers Club. They were married while she was still stationed in California.
Dan Mershon, who was in charge of security for civilian personnel at Phu Loi base camp, left for Vietnam in 1969. Bobbie arrived in country a couple of months later and worked with critically burned soldiers until they were stable enough to be transferred to Korea.
"These guys came in with multiorgan injuries," she said. "These injuries were to kids younger than I was, and I was 22. They were never going to be the same again."
Mershon said she never believed her life was in danger -- although she remembers the incoming rockets and other ordnance that targeted the base.
Eight American nurses died during the war. Sharon Lane of Canton was the only one to die from hostile fire. She was killed during a rocket barrage that hit the Army's 312th Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai in 1969.
After the war, Mershon was actively involved in fundraising for the Vietnam Women's Memorial in the nation's capital. The life-sized bronze statue of three women tending to a wounded soldier stands near Vietnam Veterans Memorial, "the Wall." The statue was dedicated in 1993.
According to the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation, 265,000 women served during the war. Every one volunteered.
"I feel like I still have a lot to give back to the community," said Mershon, who has served on City Council since 1990. "I'm grateful to raise my three children here, and I'm very proud to represent not only veterans, but also Canal Winchester in the Red, White & Boom! parade."