Female warriors honored: Delaware Women’s Service Monument a big hit

DOVER — It all began with a female-flavored fourth annual Veterans Day Parade down Loockerman Street and ended with the unveiling of the Delaware Women’s Service Monument at Legislative Hall on Saturday.

It was a day of military pride in downtown Dover for Delawareans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, which this time around put an extra emphasis on women’s roles in their dedication and service to the country.

By the time the Delaware Women’s Service Monument was unveiled on the beautiful fall afternoon, the speeches preceding the moment had practically turned the event into a much-deserved pep rally for women warriors.

“Female warriors feel and bleed the same as our male warriors,” said retired Army Sgt. Major Anna Lopez, who delivered the keynote address at the ceremony and now works for the Delaware Commission on Veterans Affairs. “We have the same — but unique — challenges as well.

“It is often difficult to display that as simply as our male counterparts at times. We don’t typically wear hats, or vests, or jackets or clothing that bluntly tells everyone, ‘I serve my country proudly.’ We keep it close to our hearts in the hopes that someone will notice that I served, too.”

Sgt. Major Lopez added, “Some people have asked, ‘Why do we need a women’s military service monument?’ Well, for many reasons, but because it deserves its own special day and literally this monumental moment.”

The new Delaware Women’s Service Monument sits on the corner of Legislative Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard North.

The monument is adorned with a “cross section” of 17 laser-etched images of women who have served in various roles – nurses, soldiers, pilots, loadmasters and others.

Below the monument, an inscription on the pedestal reads, “Building on the accomplishments of earlier generations, today’s Delaware women are taking on new challenges in every aspect of the military, including combat service.”

By the time Saturday’s dedication came to an end, there were no more questions as to why Delaware needed a monument for women who have served in the military.

“The reason for a separate Delaware women’s military monument is that women have special challenges serving our country in the military,” Dick Carter, chairman of the Delaware Heritage Commission, told lawmakers earlier.

“In fact, there have been cases, particularly in earlier years in World War I and World War II, where women had to fight for the privilege of serving our country, either in the military or sometimes they weren’t even allowed to join the military so they did it through civilian organizations, and so the feeling is widespread among women that have served in the military that there’s sort of a special status because of that fact.”

Sgt. Major Lopez said she was in awe of getting the chance to deliver the keynote speech at the event.

“This is our day to celebrate our commitments, our loyalties, and especially our sacrifices to our country,” she said. “I have interacted with some beautiful and proud World War II female veterans, Korean War veterans, Vietnam War veterans and very proud female service women of all eras.

“I have nothing but the utmost respect for you, not just because of your accomplishments that you should always be proud of, but because you have helped in the success of women serving in any of our military services.

“We have come a very long way.”

Military women’s roles evolve

Maj. General Carol Timmons, the Adjutant General of the Delaware National Guard, has served in the military for five decades.

She has seen first-hand how women’s roles in the military have changed throughout the years.

“Many of us served at a time when many positions were not open to women,” Maj. General Timmons said. “When I first started, women couldn’t fly in combat, women couldn’t do this, women couldn’t do that, and it was just based on gender. How stupid is that?

“I’m very proud that I got the opportunity through my years of service to watch those rules go away and just allow the person who has the passion and the calling to serve the state and their country. How smart is that? That’s what makes us a great country.”

Maj. General Timmons concluded her remarks with a heartfelt salute to all the veterans in attendance.

Guests at the ceremony also received a 75-page commemorative book titled, “A Short History of Delaware Women and their Service to our Nation.”

The Delaware Heritage Commission plans to update the book in the future as more history is revealed.

The Delaware National Guard Band got Saturday’s program started with a musical prelude of patriotic songs before the Delaware National Guard presented the colors.

The Delaware National Guard Band played the National Anthem before Maj. Susannah Tulloch, chaplain for the Delaware Air National Guard, gave the Invocation.

Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock made welcoming remarks and introduced dignitaries who were attending the dedication.

“The women veterans come from all walks of life and their service and sacrifice has taken many forms,” Mr. Bullock said. “From the earliest days in our state’s history, the women of Delaware have not hesitated to answer the call of duty.

“With this monument, we aim to shine new light on that legacy of service and to honor all women, past, present and future, who have committed themselves to serving our state and our nation.”

Women face different challenges

While several of the state’s prominent politicians spoke, it was Sgt. Major Lopez’s words that captivated the audience and drew a resounding response.

“I have been asked many times what my experiences were in the Army,” she said. “Some of my greatest challenges were being able to function as a soldier, as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter and as a sister, simultaneously.

“There were many challenges and feelings of having to make choices between family and soldiering in my military career. Many times, I had feelings of guilt from my children and family, especially during my one-year deployment to Iraq. I knew that my kids needed their mother and that they missed me … not knowing that my heart was aching every day to be close to them.”

Sgt. Major Lopez had to take a quick break to contain her emotions, then added, “Despite (all this) I knew that my service was to my country and that I would do what was necessary to serve my country in peace time and in war time. Folks say war is ugly, I know that it is. I experienced it first-hand.”

DMV honors women’s service

The Delaware Department of Transportation joined in on honoring Delaware women’s military service members with the issuance of the new Women’s Military Service license plate.

Delaware’s women veterans who served during any conflict are being given the chance to fill out an application for a special license plate that features a woman in uniform with a red poppy behind her.

Applicants for the license plate must have a DD214 form, Military ID card, or a DMV-issued Delaware Veteran ID.

Interested individuals can call 744-4114 for more information.

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment