By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Women veterans of all branches of the armed forces were honored by the American Legion Steve Youngdeer Post 143 at a ceremony held at the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds on Friday, Oct. 7.
“I am in awe of the service of these ladies,” said Warren Dupree, Post 143 Service Officer who served as the emcee for the event. “They have served their country so honorably and so well it almost makes you want to burst into tears.”
The women veterans present for Friday’s event were presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Post 143 as well as a Quilt of Valor made by the Smoky Mountain Quilters Guild.
Principal Chief Michell Hicks said at the event, “To give up your lives, to set aside your families is a difficult decision and we truly appreciate you. I just want to thank you for all you have done for us. God Bless you.”
Mary Jane Taylor and the late Viola T. French were recognized for their years of selfless service to the American Legion Auxillary. Taylor is wife of WWII veteran Reuban Taylor and was one of the founding members of the Post 143 Auxillary. French was the wife of WWI veteran Meroney French.
LTC Kina Bernice Swayney (US Army Ret.) was honored for her years of service with a special plaque. She retired after 24 years of service on Dec. 31, 2010.
She thanked her family and community and most of all her husband, Doug Swayney. “If it weren’t for Doug, I would not be here today.”
Post 143 Commander Lew Harding thanked all of the female veterans for their service and said, “We are here today to honor the matriarchs in our community. God Bless you. Thank you for your service to our country and God Bless the United States of America.”
Sharon K. West, Women Veterans program manager at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, gave a brief history of women serving in the armed forces.
“This is nothing new at all – women in the military.”
She told the story of Mary Sampson who disguised herself as a man to enlist in the service during the American Revolution. It wasn’t until three years later when she became sick that her secret was revealed. West related that while Sampson was dismissed from the service, accounts tell that she was very respected among her fellow soldiers who were saddened to see her leave.
West told the crowd that women veterans numbered 1.1 million in 1980. By 2000, that number had grown to 1.6 million and by 2010 had grown further to 1.8 million.
“The women veterans are the fastest growing number of veterans today,” she said. “It is predicted that by 2019, we will have close to two million female veterans.”
She said it is important for female veterans to share their stories. “You have made a tremendous contribution. I want to say to all the female veterans, thank you for your service.”
Female veterans shared their stories of service prior to the event with Dupree who read their accounts during the event. In reading the account of Barbara Toineeta, an U.S. Army veteran who currently works at the U.S. Post Office in Cherokee, he read, “It (armed forces) was the best thing for me. I wanted to keep America safe.”
The Post 143 Color Guard opened the event by posting the colors. Legionnaire and U.S. Army veteran Phyllis Shell sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and Yona Wade sang the Cherokee National Anthem.
Also, during the event, Dupree performed theatrical readings of “Remember Me” and “What is a Veteran?”
Visit the One Feather photo galleries to view more images from this event: