Woman devoted to making a difference, preserving history

By Lisa Burnett Published November 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Junelle Mongno of Jacksonville is the state historian for the Arkansas Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Junelle Mongno grew up in Nebraska and said she’d still be there if it weren’t for the Air Force.

She’s now a Jacksonville resident and works with the Arkansas Chapter of the Daughters of the

American Revolution, or DAR, as the state historian.

Mongno studied dietetics at Kearney State College in Kearney, Neb., now part of the University of Nebraska System.

While studying dietetics, she got her first taste of the Air Force when a recruiter came to her school.

“[The recruiter] was trying to find people to sign up for the Air Force’s dietetics program. My counselor talked me into sitting in on the session, and from there I agreed and went to Omaha for my physical and paperwork,” Mongno said. “After that, I signed on the dotted line.”

Mongno came into the Air Force under an Afit Air Force Scholarship program for dietetics.

After she joined, she took a dietetic internship at Colorado State Hospital in Pueblo for about nine months, she said.

Mongno said that after her internship, she spent two weeks in basic training for medical officers at Shepard Air Force Base in Texas.

“From there I was stationed at Chennault Air Force Base in Illinois. I was there for about two years,” she said. “From there I went to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.”

Following about a year and a half in North Carolina, Mongno made her way to the Little Rock Air Force Base. She was never deployed, though she was on active duty for six years.

“[When we met], my husband had been here for 11 or 12 years, and he was pretty well established in the community,” Mongno said.

She met her husband, Jim, while they were both stationed at the Little Rock Air Force Base.

“We didn’t really get together until after he retired,” Mongno said.

They’ve now been married for 36 years. After a break from working for about 10 years, Mongno started working for the state.

“I worked for the Department of Human Services [for 18 years]. I did nursing home inspections, and the last five years, I was at the Health Department doing hospital inspections,” Mongno said.

Though she’s been a member of DAR since 1986, Mongno said she didn’t become an active member until she retired.

“The Daughters of the American Revolution is the largest women’s service organization in the world,” Mongno said.

It is a nonprofit women’s organization for the descendants of individuals who aided in achieving American independence, according to DAR’s website.

Mongno said her grandmother encouraged her and her sisters to become members of the organization.

“My grandmother wanted some of her granddaughters to join, and eventually, me and one sister signed on,” she said.

In 1986, Mongno sent in her initial application to become a part of DAR. The application process can be somewhat rigorous, Mongno said.

“If you start from scratch, it can be very involved,” she said. “It takes a lot of documentation collection to verify, and you have to produce the documents and supply that with your application.”

Her grandmother had already established that Mongno and her sisters were eligible descendants, so their application process was somewhat simple.

“I didn’t become [an active member] until I retired from the state in about 2005,” Mongno said. “I transferred my membership from Nebraska to here.”

She met some of the members of the Maj. Jacob Gray Chapter of the Arkansas State Society of the DAR while she was still working, and they encouraged her to become a part of the local organization.

“When I worked, I traveled all the time, so it was really difficult to find time to get involved in the community, but once I retired, that’s just where [my time went],” Mongno said.

National, state, regional and local chapters make up the national organization.

“The [organization’s] mission is historic preservation, education and patriotism,” Mongno said. “There is a multitude of projects you can get involved in.”

Mongno said the organization has helped her become actively involved in her community, along with promoting United States history.

“[I’m in the organization] to make a difference and to help promote this country’s history,” she said. “People need to know how we’ve come this far and what we need to preserve our history.”

Mongno said it’s important for children growing up in today’s society to know how the country has progressed over the years.

“They don’t have a good grasp on what this country’s gone through,” she said. “Then there’s the patriotism part [of our mission].”

The city of Jacksonville has opened opportunities for Mongno to help veterans and the people of the community, she said.

“It’s really easy to work with veteran projects,” she said.

She and the other members of the local chapter of the organization work with the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in North Little Rock around Christmastime, when the women in DAR gather items the hospital needs for patients.

“We used to do a lot of homecoming and send-off events when units were deploying,” Mongno said. “It was good to let [the troops] know the community is behind them.”

As state historian, Mongno is in charge of organizing the National Outstanding Teacher of American History Contest for Arkansas.

“[Local] chapters submit entries. They go into schools and identify the teacher they would like to honor and send that to the state historian,” she said.

Though her job within the organization can be stressful at times, she enjoys it.

“Once you’ve established that heritage [within the organization], it’s hard for a lot of people to give it up. I enjoy it,” she said.

Becoming involved with her community was something her parents always stressed to her.

“I grew up in a family where you were involved in the community,” Mongno said. “I guess I just have that innate sense about me. I try to make a difference.”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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