As a young girl growing up in Cherry Hill in the 1960s and ’70s, Linda Boris never thought she would join the military. But after a year at the former Glassboro State College, Boris said she was bored.
“I had this feeling that my life wasn’t going anywhere and I needed to do something,” she said from inside her Mays Landing home on a warm October morning.
Boris moved to Atlantic County a few years after retiring in 2000 from the U.S. Navy as a commander where she worked in various levels of health care administration in military hospitals across the country.
Wearing a gray Philadelphia Eagles championship shirt over a white mock turtleneck, her reddish brown bangs slightly parted to frame her face, Boris, 63, cleared space at her dining room table to talk. In the corner of the dining area in the center of her home, she keeps her service flag on a small table, a tribute to the 25 years she spent serving her country.
“It’s important for (people) to understand we do it because we want to. We’re honored to do it,” said Boris. “You don’t love it all the time; nobody loves their job all the time. We’re not doing something we hate doing. We get so much from it.”
Through her years serving in medical hospitals around the country, Boris said her proudest moments were working in decedent affairs, overseeing the care of military personnel after they died.
“That, to me, was the most important thing that I did,” Boris said. “And it was an honor to do it.”
Although Boris wouldn’t describe herself as nurturing, she said she felt the responsibility of the position.
“Every one of them I felt like this was my little brother,” she said.
Before she joined the Navy, Boris said she spent two years in the Army because, as she told it, it happened to be the first door in the Haddonfield recruiting office she walked into in 1974.
After her required two years, Boris returned to school, enrolling at the then Trenton State College through the GI Bill to study early childhood education. That lasted one semester, she said.
“I didn’t want to spend four years in the classroom. I missed doing. I missed working,” Boris said.
Boris went right back to the same Haddonfield recruiting office she visited in 1974, and this time chose door No. 2, which happened to be the Navy.
After more training and another tour in a California hospital, Boris said she realized how much she liked the paperwork and began her pursuit of administration through an officer track.
During her service, Boris spent two tours in Washington, D.C., in the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the headquarters for Navy medicine. Boris said her biggest contribution was rewriting and developing advanced processes for evaluation of injured military personnel. She also rewrote a chapter of medical boards in the manual of the medical department for the Navy.
“People said when you go to Washington, you can do anything. That’s just not true. You can influence things,” she said.
In 1994, Boris served on the USN Comfort military ship for a six-week trip to Haiti, her only deployment.
In all, Boris said she had moved to 13 different places across the country in her time in the military.
Boris said that being out of the military has been a difficult transition.
“My father used to ask me — he’s the only one who ever took an interest — ‘Do you miss the military?’ I missed the camaraderie of the military. It’s not just in the combat, it is pervasive everywhere,” she said.