The Kansas City VA welcomed women Veterans and their families to honor and celebrate the service of women in the military over the years. The annual Salute to Women Veterans event began as a small ceremony in 2017 for WWI and WWII women Veterans. In 2018, Vietnam-era women Veterans were honored and, in 2019, Persian Gulf women Veterans were honored. The event has now grown to celebrate all women Veterans.
“Recognizing the unique service and challenges of our women Veterans is one way that we show care for this growing group within the military. We offer extensive women’s health care options and readily serve those who have served,” said Jean Gurga, medical center director.
Andrea Simpson is the Women Veteran Program manager and an Army Veteran. She emphasized the need to recognize this group of Veterans and encourage women Veterans to come to VA for health care: “It is important that our women Veterans are seen and know we are here for them. This salute has always been a way to stop and pause and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’”
Review of milestone policy changes
Keynote speaker Dr. Vicki Callahan is the deputy chief of staff and a Navy Veteran. She talked about military milestones of policy change that began with documentation of women who serve, increasing access to Veteran benefits for women, and changes in military policy to include women in more military roles.
“This list of ‘firsts’ for women in the military is getting smaller, but we are not done yet,” she said. She highlighted a significant recent milestone for women in the military, which is the appointment of Admiral Linda Fagan as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, the first female leader of any U.S. branch of military.
World War II Navy nurse Veteran, 101, honored
101-year-old WWII Veteran Catherine Anthony is from American Legion post 1107. She was the first woman Veteran to receive her pin and be honored in this ceremony. Anthony was a Navy nurse during WWII. She served at Naval Hospital Shoemaker in California. She treated Sailors and Marines returning from the Pacific. Anthony said there is more acknowledgement now for women who serve in the military compared to when she started.
Women Veterans from various branches and eras exchanged stories with each other. They received information on Veterans benefits and enjoyed the camaraderie that shared experience provides during the fifth annual Salute to Women Veterans.