Statue honors female veterans

Way to recognize impact women have had on and off battlefield

Louisiana’s female veterans, who make up about 10 percent of the state’s total veteran population, were recognized Wednesday with a statue commissioned in their honor at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home in Jennings. There are about 28,055 female veterans living in Louisiana.

Crystal StevensonEditor
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Irma Boulet Darphin, right, admires a statue dedicated to all female veterans Tuesday during an unveiling at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home in Jennings.

Crystal StevensonEditor
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JENNINGS — Irma Boulet Darphin was a 20-year-old Army nurse when she landed on the shores of Utah Beach just six weeks after D-Day.

“We jumped onto the Higgins boats, and they brought us right on up to the shores because there were no docks for big ships,” she said. “I felt very safe; maybe we were just too young to be frightened.”

Darphin said she decided to join the Army — the Army Nurse Corps had not yet been created — following the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

“It was so devastating. We didn’t think that was even possible,” she said. “It changed everything, our whole way of thinking.”

Darphin — a native of Crowley who completed registered nurse training in Port Arthur, Texas — said she had no reservations about enlisting.

“I joined and all my friends joined; it was the thing to do,” she said. “I went in and I enjoyed every minute of it. They taught us how to hut, two, three, four, but we never had to do it.”

When she landed on Utah Beach, Darphin tended to the wounded through the 127th Army General Hospital Unit. She served two years with the unit, traveling through Germany and France setting up hospitals for the war’s wounded.

“When we arrived, we were greeted by the people of France who were really glad to see us,” she said. “Eventually we moved to Nancy, France, and spent a lot of time there, it’s right close to Germany.”

Darphin said she specialized in orthopedic nursing.

“That was my duty, orthopedic nursing, because there were so many broken bones.”

If given the chance, Darphin said she would do it all again.

Darphin was among several recognized Tuesday during a statue unveiling at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home to honor all female veterans.

“The statue is beautiful,” Darphin said. “I just want to get up there and put my arms around it.”

Darphin said she appreciates the recognition the statue represents.

“It means they realize that ladies were in the Army also and that it took ladies and men to do what needed to be done,” she said.

Debrah Woolridge, senior vice president of ancillary benefits at the veterans home, said it took three years for the Lewis-Gill-Lee VFW Post 7321’s Ladies Auxiliary to raise $5,000 for the statue’s purchase.

“We sold dinners, hosted a poppy drive, held raffles and all the money raised was for the good of our veterans,” Woolridge, who is the past president of the auxiliary, said. “To all female veterans, I salute them and thank them for their service for what they have given on behalf of this country.”

Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home Administrator Matthew Duhon said there are about 28,055 female veterans living in Louisiana, which is about 10 percent of the state’s total veteran population.

“This statue is a way for us to honor and recognize the impact women have had on and off the battlefield,” he said.

Louisiana Women Veterans president Anna Sanders, an Air Force veteran, agreed.

“Women veterans should be recognized for their service and sacrifice in the same manner that our male counterparts are,” she said. “Although our service as military women has ended, we still choose to serve in whatever we can and we are proud to wear the title ‘women veteran’.”

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