The American Legion joined state and federal officials June 14 in honoring seven women veterans who served during World War II.
The Flag Day event, which took place at Bedford Court Retirement Community in Silver Spring, Md., featured speakers representing the Legion's Washington office and the offices of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Jr., D-Md., and Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
Rebecca Jonilionis, manager of The American Legion's Appeals and Special Claims Unit, told the veterans she was "humbled and honored to stand before you today. All seven of you women have paved the way for all the rest of us who came after you, and I just want to thank you so much for that."
Jonilionis gave each of the women an American Legion "thank you" coin, as well as a specially minted Legion coin that recognizes the service of women in the military.
Six of those honored served in the U.S. Army. Ann Gudmondson was a radar operator and five others were in the Army Nurse Corps: Mary Hacken, Frances Synda, Alice Hosinski, Dorothy McKenna and Silvia Maloy. The seventh member of the group, Aurora Hook, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).
Nancy Whipple, Bedford Court's director of recreation, also addressed the veterans and the audience attending the outdoor event. She noted that "it is not unusual to see women command a ship or fight in combat, or stand side by side with men to protect our nation. I salute all of you for your service during World War II, and I hope you enjoy your day."
Karen McManus, a member of Rep. Van Hollen's staff, said, "I can't think of a better way to celebrate Flag Day and everything it stands for (than) honoring our veterans.
"I have a 90-year-old father who's a World War II Marine veteran, so I have a special place in my heart for World War II veterans."
Citations from Van Hollen and Mikulski - as well as a proclamation from O'Malley - were read at the ceremony, recognizing the women veterans' service and sacrifices for America. Later, an honor guard of U.S. Air Force servicemembers from Ft. Meade, Md., presented U.S. Flags to the honorees.
"We need more ceremonies like this, all across the country" said Verna Jones, director of The American Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division. "These seven women are part of our ‘greatest generation' that helped to defeat our enemies in the most destructive war ever fought. We should never stop thanking them for their dedication and their courage."