Women of Merit winners announced
By: BARBARA HENRY - Staff Writer

OCEANSIDE ---- Breaking with 11 years of tradition, this year's North County Times Women of Merit will all have ties to the military.

"This is a community at war and it seems a good time to honor our military," said Dick High, publisher of the North County Times, as he discussed this year's merit award winners.

Begun in 1994, the North County Times' Women of Merit program honors 10 women each year who have made significant contributions to their southwest Riverside and north San Diego county communities.

"(This year) we were delighted to discover so many women who have contributed so much either inside or for our military efforts," High said. "There are so many women of merit inside the military that we were overwhelmed."

The award recipients include active-duty military, retired military and women with relatives in the military. The 10 award winners are:

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Lillian Hagener Bell. She served 36 consecutive years on active duty. That's a remarkable achievement, noted the organization that nominated her ---- the Women Marines Association Chapter, CA-7.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Patricia Hasen. A Navy nurse, Hasen served in Afghanistan and Iraq. The head of inpatient services at Al Asad Air Base, she has been involved in dangerous and dramatic at-sea rescues during her military career, her nomination form stated.

Marine Corps Lt. Natalie Hill. She served as flight surgeon and medical department head for Marine helicopter squadron in Al Ramadi, Al Fallujah and Al Taqaddum.

Mary Ann Hillery. Her husband, her son and her son-in-law are all Marines. She has served as a full-time volunteer for Camp Pendleton's military assistance programs, including Operation Interdependence.

Retired Navy Capt. Sandy Holmes. She served as a Navy nurse during the Vietnam War caring for amputees as they returned home.

Marine Corps 1st Lt. Erin Kilroy. An assistant logistics officer in the Marine's 15th MEU, Kilroy planned and executed numerous amphibious landings of command personnel and equipment while serving in Sri Lanka, Kuwait and Iraq.

Marine Corps Capt. Jessica Moore. A Cobra pilot, Moore flew combat missions during Operation Enduring Freedom, according to her nomination paperwork. She is currently serving in Iraq.

Marines Corps Sgt. Kathleen Ocampo. A mechanic operator, Ocampo made en-route repairs to transportation convoys and covered more than 2,400 miles in Iraq, her nomination paperwork indicates. She is known for her ability to quickly install body armor in vehicles.

Joan Pollard. Her husband was in the U.S. Air Force and was missing in action for 3 1/2 years during the Vietnam War. Pollard organized the national MIA/POW family support programs, according to her nomination paperwork.

Retired Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Peggy Reiber. She served in the Marines from 1973 to 1996, and was the first woman to integrate an all-male camp security force at Camp Le Jeune in North Carolina in 1975, her paperwork indicates.

High said the decision to focus on military women this year was part of the newspaper's campaign to make residents more aware of Camp Pendleton's role in the war.

In addition to this year's Women of Merit event, the paper has raised money through its North County Honor campaign to help families of local service members killed in Iraq. The North County Times also has sent reporter Darrin Mortenson and photographer Hayne Palmour to Iraq three times since the war began in March 2003.