Women’s Memorial Hosts Veterans Day Observance, Honors Navajo Vets
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 12, 2008 A Veterans Day observance yesterday at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial here honored the contributions of women in uniform throughout the nation’s history.
Retired Air Force Maj. Linda S. Schwartz, left, and Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Patricia D. Ruth attend the Veterans Day observance at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va., Nov. 11, 2008. DoD photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, president of the Women’s Memorial foundation, hosted the annual event, which followed a tribute to the accomplishments of Navajo women veterans.
“This memorial pays tribute, individually and collectively, to all the women who’ve served or now serve,” Vaught told attendees.
Former military nurse and retired Air Force Maj. Linda S. Schwartz was one of the event’s speakers. Women in the military, Schwartz said, know “what it is to love this country, because we have given everything we had to keep her free and safe.”
Military women are intensely patriotic and take pride in accomplishing the mission wherever they’re assigned, said Schwartz, who now serves as Connecticut’s commissioner for veterans’ affairs.
“We know what it is like to get a rush of pride when we hear the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ and see the Stars and Stripes go by,” Schwartz said. “It is the common experience and the building upon the legacies of those who have come before us and the shared history that truly sustains our purpose.”
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Patricia D. Ruth was one of several current military women who spoke at the observance. The 23-year Army veteran is a senior administrator at the Pentagon in the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve.
The Veterans Day observance at the Women’s Memorial “provides an opportunity for everyone to understand and realize the part that we’ve played in the armed forces,” Ruth, a Washington, D.C., resident, said.
Several Navajo women who are military veterans attended the observance. President Bush proclaimed November as National American Indian Heritage Month.
Angela Barney Nez from Tohatchi, N.M., served in the Army from 1978 to 1986. She spoke about her military experiences, and her daughter, Dana, performed a Navajo hunter’s song on the flute.
Navajo women “came to serve” when they volunteered to join the military, said Nez, who was among the first group of women who began training with men near the end of the Cold War. Previously, she said, female Army recruits were required to train in women-only units.
Another Navajo military veteran, Marcella King, served in the Air Force as a communications technician and now is a lawyer living in Yahtahey, N.M. Her family lineage, she said, spans five generations of military service.
“The military gave me confidence; the military made me a leader,” she said.
During her military days, King said, she fought against false impressions held by some people that most Native Americans were alcoholics and lived in poverty.
“Being able to leave the reservation and to serve and share information about native people and to overcome stereotypes was a very important thing,” she said.