Feature   Observances

Unique Honor Flight Celebrates Female Veterans

Oct. 20, 2021 | BY Crista Mary Mack, U.S. ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY

Girl power took on an entirely new meaning recently when 93 female veterans whose service spanned from World War II to the Korean War and the Vietnam War flew to Washington, D. C., for Operation HerStory, the first all-woman Honor Flight out of Illinois.

Over 200 volunteers from Chicago to the nation's capitol participated in the Oct. 6 event, sponsored by Operation HerStory and Honor Flight Chicago, recognizing veterans from all branches of military service.

A woman in a military uniform stands at a podium.
Army Brig. Gen. Patricia R. Wallace
Army Brig. Gen. Patricia R. Wallace, the commanding general of the 91st Training Division, expresses her gratitude for the trailblazing efforts of 93 female veterans at Operation HerStory. The women were part of the first all-female Honor Flight from Chicago to Washington. The Honor Flight featured veterans whose service to the nation spanned from 1941 to 1975.
Photo By: Army Master Sgt. Crista Mary Mack, U.S. Army Center of Military History
VIRIN: 211006-A-KX398-007

"Thank you for your service, thank you for your courage. You matter. Your stories matter," said Army Brig. Gen. Patricia R. Wallace, the commanding general of the 91st Training Division. Wallace expressed her gratitude for the trailblazing efforts during an event at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

"It's because of you that I've been able to serve this long and to serve at this rank," Wallace said. "I am grateful for all that you have done so that my children and my children's grandchildren can read and learn about the strong history of the women in our military and the contributions we made to this country."

Two elderly women blow out candles on a cake.
Birthday Celebration
Former Army 1st Lt. Bette Horstman, 99, and former Army Sgt. Josephine Bogdanich, 104, blow out candles in anticipation of Bogdanich's 105th birthday. The World War II veterans were presented with Living Legend Proclamations from the Military Women's Memorial during Operation HerStory, an all-female Honor Flight from Chicago to Washington on Oct. 6, 2021. The two were the oldest of the 93 female veterans whose service to the nation spanned from 1941 to 1975.
Photo By: Army Master Sgt. Crista Mary Mack, U.S. Army Center of Military History
VIRIN: 211006-A-KX398-008

After attending the ceremony at the memorial and museum, the ladies participated in an official wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then visited nearby landmarks, including the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial.

"It makes me feel that our time was not wasted ...," said Connie Edwards, a Vietnam veteran. 

Vietnam War veteran Rochelle Crump helped organize the historic flight with Operation HerStory, an organization that helps arrange Honor Flights for women veterans.

A large group of elderly women, many in wheelchairs, salute.
All-Woman Salute
The first all-woman Honor Flight out of Chicago flew 93 female veterans to visit Washington, the national memorials and the Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 6, 2021.
Photo By: Army Master Sgt. Crista Mary Mack, U.S. Army Center of Military History
VIRIN: 211006-A-KX398-016

Crump said the event "is like their parade" because many did not originally have a parade. The participants ranged in age from 63 to 104 years old.

"In my 99 years, I have never been so overtaken with emotion," said Bette Horstman, a World War II Army veteran who served as a medical officer on Midway Island and other parts of the Pacific Campaign. "You have a camaraderie; you share something that the average neighbor doesn't have. We all went through similar experiences."

Horstman and 104-year-old Army Sgt. Josephine Bogdanich received Living Legend Proclamations from the Military Women's Memorial during the day's events.

Four people sitting in wheelchairs watch two service members in dress uniforms.
Changing of the Guard
Female veterans watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Oct. 6, 2021. The 93 veterans were part of an all-female Honor Flight from Chicago to Washington.
Photo By: Army Master Sgt. Crista Mary Mack, U.S. Army Center of Military History
VIRIN: 211006-A-KX398-023

Army Spc. 5 Denise Carson, a Vietnam veteran, said she came to the organization because of the women who joined the military before her. She said those women opened up opportunities for her to do non-traditional jobs in the Army.

"They didn't have a voice," Carson said. "It's up to those of my generation and younger generations to be that voice for all of us. That's our responsibility."

Learn more about the Honor Flight Network and Operation HerStory