Special recognition for female veterans

By By Frank DiCesare / Special to the American Press

Women, too, are veterans and have been for generations.

During the city’s annual Veteran’s Day

Celebration Service, scores of male and female veterans and their

respective families

joined local officials at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Lake

Charles to honor all those who served their country. This

year’s celebration, however, paid special recognition to women

veterans both past and present.

The event’s guest speaker, Maj. Rhonda Sullivan, a recent retiree of the United States Army Nurse Corps, spoke of the many

brave women who served their country with distinction from the days of the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War.

Sullivan, who retired from the army last April after 24 years of service, said servicewomen over the past three decades have

seen more combat action than ever before in American history. Many, she added, have paid the ultimate price. Sullivan said

more servicewomen have been killed in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq than all of their predecessors who died in World War

II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

“A veteran, whether a male or female, active duty, discharged , reserve, retired or deceased, is someone who, at one point

in their life wrote a blank check payable to the USA, for an amount up to and including his or her life,” she said.

Sullivan added that as of Sept. 2011, the United States has been home to nearly 2 million women veterans.

Master Sgt. Marialisa M. Edwards, an

Iraq War veteran of the United States Air Force and member of the

Mayor’s Armed Forces

Commission of Lake Charles, spoke of the challenges servicewomen

face both inside and outside of their military lives. But

despite these challenges, she added, brave women as young as 20

and as old as 60 have served their country in battle throughout

history.

“Women served in key combat-support

positions,” said Edwards, who retired from the air force in 2010. “They

marched through

minefields, maintained aircraft, guarded perimeters, accepted the

surrender of soldiers and subsequently pulled guard duty.

Women were taken prisoner and some lost their lives.”

Edwards, who served as the event’s

mistress of ceremonies, added that today’s military has more women in

constant combat environments

than ever before in its history. Servicewomen today, she said,

sustain the same types of injuries their male counterparts

endure.

“Joining the military, we knew that we would be filling the boots, even the combat boots, traditionally filled by men,” Edwards

added. “As one veteran put it, ‘You give up much needed rest in order to ensure the safety of our combat buddies in Iraq.

You lose your fear and you set aside your innate nurturing abilities that you have as a woman just to survive and protect

your comrades.’”

According to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, more than 280 servicewomen have received the Purple

Heart for injuries suffered in battle.

Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach spoke of the women throughout history who served in the military, even in the years before

they were allowed to do so.

“Women have served in combat and

they’ve died in combat,” Roach said. “We now understand that women feel

just as passionately

about serving our country as men do. They are just as willing to

pay the ultimate sacrifice. We are one nation, not one male

nation and one female nation. We are one country and our armed

forces reflect that.”