The power of girls took on a whole new meaning recently when 93 female veterans whose service spanned from World War II to the Korean War and Vietnam War flew to Washington, DC, for Operation HerStory, the first all-female honor flight from Illinois.
More than 200 volunteers from Chicago to the nation’s capital participated in the Oct. 6 event, sponsored by Operation HerStory and Honor Flight Chicago, recognizing veterans from all branches of military service.
“Thank you for your service, thank you for your courage. You matter. Your stories matter,” Army Brig said. Gen. Patricia R. Wallace, the commanding general of the 91st Training Division. Wallace expressed his gratitude for the pioneering efforts at an event at the Memorial to Women in Military Service for America in Arlington, Virginia.
“It is because of you that I was able to serve so long and serve at this rank,” Wallace said. “I am grateful for all you have done so that my children and my children’s grandchildren can read and learn more about the rich history of women in our armed forces and the contributions we have made to this country. . “
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 and then visited nearby sites including the WWII Memorial, the Memorial of the Korean War and the Vietnam War Memorial.
“It gives me the impression that our time has not been wasted …” said Connie Edwards, a Vietnam veteran.
Vietnam War veteran Rochelle Crump helped organize the historic flight with Operation HerStory, an organization that helps organize honor flights for female veterans.
Crump said the event “is like their parade” because many did not originally have a parade. The participants ranged from 63 to 104 years old.
“In my 99 years, I have never been so overcome with emotion,” said Bette Horstman, a World War II army veteran who served as a medical officer on Midway Island and in other parts of the Pacific campaign. “You have a camaraderie; you share something that the average neighbor doesn’t have. We’ve all had similar experiences.”
Horstman and the 104-year-old Army Sgt. Josephine Bogdanich received living legend proclamations from the Women’s Military Memorial during the day’s events.
Army Spc. 5 Denise Carson, a Vietnam veteran, said she joined the organization because of the women who joined the military before her. She said these women opened up opportunities for her to take up non-traditional jobs in the military.
“They had no voice,” Carson said. “It is up to those of my generation and the younger generations to be that voice for all of us. It is our responsibility.”