By Anthony L Taylor
85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command
“What we have found is that there are not a lot of women on the (Honor) Flights and the reason is because they are like my mom. They relinquish their seat for a man,” said Ginny Narsete, U.S. Air Force veteran and the founder of Operation HerStory. “The second (reason) is that a lot of them didn’t know that they were veterans because they didn’t get the same accolades as the men did.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, service members from around the Chicagoland area joined veterans and veteran service organizations at Pritzker Military Library in Chicago to show their support for a news conference announcing Operation HerStory, the first all-female Honor Flight in the state of Illinois that will take place in the fall of this year.
“I am truly honored to be around women veterans who paved the way for me,” said U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Patricia Wallace, deputy commanding general, 88th Readiness Division. “I am really proud of the organization for thinking of women and scheduling this Honor Flight.”
Honor Flight, managed through a non-profit organization, is dedicated in transporting as many U.S. military veterans as possible to Washington, D.C., to visit their respective memorials there, at no cost to the veteran.
John Ptak, president of Honor Flight Chicago said that they have flown more than 8,700 veterans to Washington, D.C., but only about 200 of those veterans were women.
“Hearing stories of these women who served in the past is humbling because our military today is so very different, inclusive and welcoming,” said U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Russell Litko, assigned to the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command. “These veterans should be celebrated for their service. They were there. They deployed to Korea, Vietnam and served their country along with their male counterparts.”
Honor Flight Chicago will take 100 female veterans who served between 1940 and 1975 to Washington, D.C., on a one-day flight, departing early Oct. 7, 2020. They currently have about 50 veterans confirmed and are searching for more participants.
Narsete, along with other female veterans, shared stories of what it was like to be a female service member during the different eras in the service, and they spoke on the lack of recognition they received as a veteran, after their service, because they were female.
“Being a first generation (born) here and coming from a Mexican culture, it’s nice to see that there is a lot of women empowerment,” said Sgt. Maribel Meraz, assigned to the 85th USARSC. “And that they are recognizing us.”