Annual event honors past, present and future female veterans, military

Annual event honors past, present and future female veterans, military

Since 1985 on the first Friday of March, the Tribute to Women in the Military has taken place in Albuquerque, N.M. The tribute came out of a committee of four women and was created to acknowledge women who have given unselfishly of their time and talents in the military, a perfect kickoff to Women’s History Month.

And when this year’s tribute was in need of a facility to host it, Chairman Diana Wong had to look no further than her own American Legion post, Carlisle-Bennett Post 13 in Albuquerque.

A U.S. Air Force veteran and American Legion Rider, Wong got the OK from post leadership to host the event. And on March 1, around 250 veterans, active-duty servicemembers, future military members and others gathered for a day of camaraderie and networking while also enjoying lunch, a silent auction and guest speakers.

“Every year (the tribute) keeps growing and we have to find bigger and bigger places yearly,” Wong said. “I asked the post, and they were nice enough to accommodate us. And I thanked them graciously for letting us use their facility. They provided the hall for us. The Auxiliary provided our food.

“Back in the day, the USO had Donut Dollies who would serve donuts to the men in the military. Since this is a women’s event, we had Donut Dudes. The American Legion color guard served the ladies, and it was kind of neat.”

Wong said she wanted the post to host the event “to reach our women veterans … and to invite other ladies to come to our event and advertise, ‘This is The American Legion. Join our post.’ Get them involved.”

Every year the tribute has a different theme tied into honoring female servicemembers and veterans. A few years ago, the tribute centered on honor women veterans from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Last year the theme was honoring active-duty servicemembers from Kirtland Air Force Base, and this year the focus was the future.

“We got the ROTC involved and the Junior ROTC involved because they’re our future,” Wong said. “Our keynote speaker this year was a young lady from the University of New Mexico who is with the ROTC program there, and she’s getting commissioned in May.

“And we had a couple high schools come out. La Cueva High School, they have an all-female drill team, so they came out and showed us their drill movements. And we had Albuquerque High School come out, and they’re more into the technology part, so they talked about what they do with their drones. And each individual, they talked about their plans as far as wanting to go into the military.”

The event kicks off with a ceremony honoring women veterans of all eras and each military branch. Both the oldest and youngest veteran in attendance also are honored, and the names of veterans who had passed away in the previous year are read, along with the playing of taps, a rifle volley and bell ringing.

Vendors also set up at the post, most of which were military and veteran organizations to provide resources to those in attendance.

“It turned out really nice this year,” Wong said. “We got a lot of good comments.”

Wong said the tribute serves as way to bridge the gap between different generations of veterans and servicemembers, as well as provide mentoring for younger veterans and those heading into military service.

“Especially with the younger generation, times have changed,” she said. “The military has changed a lot. We were talking about when I was in (1982-1990) and we had to wear nylons and put our hair up. It’s changed nowadays. Now they can have tattoos and wear earrings. They can wear their hair down or in a ponytail or braided. When I was in, you had to have it up.

“So, we want to know about the changes. We’re old school, so it’s kind of nice to know all that … for these young people who are thinking about going into the military.”