NORMAN — Women veterans gathered Saturday at Embassy Suites Norman for the 28th Annual Recognition Day of Oklahoma Women Veterans.
The program included a special memorial service dedicated to the women who had sacrificed their lives during the past year in service to their nation. Those women were: (Army) Spc. Sarina Butcher, 19, Checotah, Okla.; Spc. Mikayla Bragg, 21, Longview, Wash., Spc. Krystal Fitts, 26, Houston; Spc. Erica Alecksen, 21, Eatonton, Ga.; Spc. Brittany Gordon, 24, St. Petersburg, Fla.; Pfc. Patricia Horne, 20, Greenwood, Miss.; Chief Warrant Officer Thalia Ramirez, 28, San Antonio; Sgt. Donna Johnson, 29 Raeford, N.C.; Staff Sgt. Jessica Wing, 42, Alexandria, Va. and (Marine Corps) Sgt. Camella Steedley, 31, Sand Diego.
And while these young women who sacrificed their lives were remembered, also remembered were veterans who had passed away this year.
The day was highlighted by three key note speakers: Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris, director for the Center for Women Veterans, Maj. Gen. Angela Salinas, director of Manpower Management Division and Brig. Gen. (retired) Wilma Vaught, president of the Board of Directors of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Inc.
Trowell-Harris spoke on the need to educate women veterans on the benefits they are eligible to claim. She said women have been “boldly answering the nation’s call” for decades. She said 15 percent of service personnel on active duty are women and 18 percent of service members are women.
Trowell-Harris commended Oklahoma for electing a woman governor, Gov. Mary Fallin, and for appointing a woman, Maj. Gen. (retired) Rita Aragon as Secretary of Oklahoma Military and Veteran Affairs.
Despite the women who have served and continue to serve their nation, Trowell-Harris said there is a mistaken notion by many women that only those who serve in combat are eligible for benefits. She said many women who have served do not apply for veteran’s benefits.