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.
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,” 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, Va.
“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.”
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.
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.
Army Spec. 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.”