View Full Version : Numbers rise for female veterans

11-22-02, 07:13 PM
Numbers rise for female veterans


At Riverside National Cemetery, Denne Howard's bugle announces the growing presence of women veterans in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

More than 17,300 female veterans live in the two counties, up about 15 percent from 1990, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This year, Howard and other veterans celebrated the 60th anniversary of the U.S. military's decision to officially allow women to serve, starting with World War II. Women, sometimes disguised as men, have unofficially served in the military since the American Revolution.

"People are getting more knowledgeable now, more accepting," said Howard, 70, a member of the Women Marines Association.

The Rancho Mirage resident plays bugle with the Semper Fi No. 1 Memorial Honor Detail. She signed up for the Marine Corps in 1953, teaching social studies at the corps' institute during the Korean War era.

"Women are doing things in the military now that they didn't allow us to do -- fly helicopters and jet planes. It's wonderful," Howard said.


Silvia Flores/The Press-Enterprise
Denne Howard, 70, plays the bugle during a recent funeral service at Riverside National Cemetery.

In the 1940s and 50s, Howard said, women were restricted to clerical, teaching and nursing jobs -- positions that didn't challenge men. "We did a job that freed combat men to fight."

Women account for about 6 percent of all veterans statewide and in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to the 2000 census. Women represent about 10 percent of veterans living in Beaumont, Coachella, Loma Linda, Rialto and Twentynine Palms.

Increase in patients

The Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center in Loma Linda reports an increase in female patients, particularly younger women, said Nancy McNulty, the hospital's women veteran coordinator.

The veterans hospital started a women's clinic in 1987 and now has more than 1,900 female patients, McNulty said. The medical center began offering prenatal care three years ago.

Many more future Inland veterans are in the pipeline. Rialto resident Kimberly Mimms said half of her Army National Guard colleagues are women.

Mimms, 37, serves in a computerized supply unit that prepared uniforms and other items needed for troops sent to Afghanistan. Her unit was activated for the Los Angeles riots and the Northridge earthquake.

Black women, including Mimms, constitute 7 percent of all women in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to the 2000 census. But they make up 13 percent of women veterans and 22 percent of military women on active duty.

Mimms' daughter La Tonya signed up for the Army Reserves and plans to operate telecommunications satellites.

"Minorities get more respect, and they have a better chance in the military. They succeed more in the military than in civilian jobs," La Tonya, 18, said recently before leaving for basic training.

La Tonya plans to attend Clark Atlanta University for a degree in broadcast journalism. "I needed to pay for school, so it seemed like a good idea," she said. "Rather than working in a mall, I'll be working in an office."

Joining sisterhood

Women veterans have formed groups across the Inland area.

This month, about 20 silver-haired female veterans braved heavy rain to meet at a Banning lodge for the Pass Area Women Veterans luncheon. They listened to a lecture by retired Marine Sgt. Jim McCredie about the 1940s "Freedom Train," which carried historical documents on a cross-country tour.

One attendee asked the speaker whether the tour of duty helped attract "chicks." Several women commiserated about how uncomfortable their troop transport railway cars had been.

"We're the women that paved the way for the military women of today, and we're very proud of the role we played back then," said Mona Benson, 68, the group's coordinator and a Cherry Valley resident.

During the Korean War, Benson handled payroll and drove a forklift at a Marine base supply department as part of the Navy's Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES.

Most men treated women politely, she said. But a few made jokes in the mess hall about service women being prostitutes or joining the military only to snag a husband.

"I don't think they took us seriously," Benson said. "There was always the jokes about, `Join the Navy, ride the WAVES.' "

The Pass Area Women Veterans group has about 40 members from Highland to Beaumont and Palm Springs. They swap stories about life on base, Benson said. "Our generation, unless you were a nurse, you weren't sent overseas."

The Inland area's military bases and clinics make the area attractive to veterans, she said. "California is a good place to retire to get the benefits the military offers."

It can be tough to recruit younger women veterans, said Joanne Evans, a former Marine and past commander of Perris American Legion District 21. Many are working, raising children or going to school.

"They really haven't had much time to join organizations," said Evans, 54, a member of the 20/4 Honor Society for women American Legion members.

Female veterans sometimes encounter old-fashioned attitudes, Evans said. Some men think women belong at home, not at the post, she said. But they gather anyway, to keep in touch and maybe share pictures of their grandkids.

"It's a camaraderie," she said. "It's like a sisterhood."

Reach Sharyn Obsatz at (909) 368-9458 or sobsatz@pe.com

Published 11/22/2002

11-22-02, 09:02 PM
I can't say what I was going to, in view of the New Political Correctness in the Corps....so....

I met an Army Nurse a few months ago. She's a Vite Nam Vet. Woman went to join the local Legion when she got back. They tried to put her in the Auxiliary. I guess the **** hit the fan. She's that type. Honest. Tells ya what she thinks up front and no bull. Straight up and down. I guess they shouldn't have told her to join the Women's Auxiliary! LOL. I understand she's recruited several former lady Veterans and has made a positive impact. At least, she tells me the boys listen to her now!

She tried to recruit me. I told her the trouble I had even gettin' in the door years ago, plus the ignored phone calls when I tried to set up an appointment to join, and generally poor common courtesy displayed towards me after I first tried to join.

Good on her, though. She got through the door. She's making a difference now.

I guess I just didn't get mad enough! LOL. ;)

11-23-02, 02:08 AM
Actually there are many women veterans but unlike our male counter parts once the move back into civilian life the women take on the home role and if they work have little time for outside activites. When I first got out I was married and had a little one. Later the workforce called and once again there was no time for anything other than work and family. Now I give alot of time to several veteran organizations and work hard to promote and unite our women who have served. And yes I still have to go to work everyday also. <g>
It is now common place to have the proud tradition of service to our country travel thru the maternal side of the families.

The Women Marines Association presently has over 3,500 members. Denne Howard mentioned above is proudly claimed as one of ours also. At the head of our Association is Carol Mutter. To many she was LtGen Mutter but since her retirement she has commanded the WMA troops with the same deliberate movement of dedication as she did her troops.

2003 marks the 60th Anniversay of Proud Service. Many events will be planned nationwide to increase the awareness for our members and for active duty Marines.

Many times others do not take the women who have served seriously and do let us know that we can be in the auxillary or perhaps as a secretary. Those of us with the EGA still emblazoned on our souls let them know where we stand. It usually only takes one time. Green when it boils is not a pretty color. <g>

Once we take our stand we are respected and appreciated for what we do and who we are.
After all these years I love the Corps as I did on that first day. And hey who needs the men's clubs when we can have our own <g> We do let the guys join our auxillary tho!!!

11-23-02, 04:39 AM
Overall, this is a good article - this one paragraph got me though. This is not a male/female issue. I think it is an issue of how todays kids think. Even some of the kids that joined when I did thought this way. It just gets me twisted up a bit.

Originally posted by Sparrowhawk

La Tonya plans to attend Clark Atlanta University for a degree in broadcast journalism. "I needed to pay for school, so it seemed like a good idea," she said. "Rather than working in a mall, I'll be working in an office."

When I joined, if you had asked me "why" my statement would have been (and still is) "to serve my country. To give back a little for all the wonderful opportunities it has afforded me. To help in preserving the freedoms those that have gone before us fought and died to keep." School was a nice "bonus" not the reason I joined.

11-23-02, 08:46 AM
Still off the subject.

I think the line "Green when it boils is not a pretty color" by WMAM12 is a classic. It should, and will, be cited in appropriate situations.

Reasons for enlisting:

As a recruiter, I am responsible for approximately 300 additions to our Corps. It was my habit to take a candid photo of the kids during my time with them and to present it to them when they returned home on recruit leave. A good laugh was had by all.

What I could have done, but didn't, was to list the indivdual's reasons for enlisting.

Gung Ho
To avoid the Army. (The draft was on then.)
Steady paycheck.
Learn a trade.
Get off the streets.
Veteran's benefits.
Peer group pressure.

The interesting thing was that the motivating factor that led to their enlistment was often forgotten and/or ignored once they became Marines.

Many, who envisioned a twenty year career, left when their enlistment was up. Many, who had other plans for their lives after their initial enlistment became careerists (lifers).

I don't believe a correlation could be made between reasons for joining and longivity or performance. Nor could a projection be made as to how long original reasons would remain unchanged.