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Veterans Day on Marco Island focused on thanking, for their service and sacrifice, America’s service women and men. If it sounds funny to say it that way, that’s kind of the point – female service members have made contributions to our country’s armed forces, including having to fight for the right to fight, but their service has gone largely unheralded.

The ceremony at Veterans Community Park at 11 o’clock on Monday sought to give the women their due. The opening prayer was led by Lee Ross, a woman who served in both the army and the navy. “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung by Sarah Hadeka, who returned later in the program to sing “I’m Proud to Be an American,” also known as “God Bless the USA,” along with a choral group of Marco Island schoolchildren led by Martha Miller.

And every female veteran was presented with a copy of a proclamation from the Marco Island City Council honoring their service, along with a “jewel-encrusted” US flag pin, at the culmination of the event, and beforehand, a red carnation donated by Marco Island Florists.

The group sitting in the warm November sunshine heard remarks from Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala and State Senator Kathleen Passidomo, after which Marco Island City Council Vice Chair Charlette Roman, who retired from the US Army as a full colonel after originally enlisting as a private, took the assemblage through a brief history of women in the military.

Roman spoke of “service-women who refused to accept the status quo and paved the way for the next generation,” a category that certainly includes her. “Since 1776, American women have found ways to serve their country,” she said.

The US Army, her branch of service, would not admit female members even after 12,000 women served as Yeomen in the US Navy during World War I – the end of which, just 100 years ago on November 11, a day before the ceremony on Monday the 12th, was another point of commemoration. Regular Army and Navy nurses did serve overseas in that conflict.

World War II, though, was a major turning point for women in the military, said Roman. “Almost 400,000 women served in the armed forces – a number that exceeded total male troop strength in 1939.”

Apart from the focus on women, the ceremony proceeded along a well-grooved format, with the (all male) color guards from veterans’ groups and the MIPD, a flyover by former carrier pilot Mick Thorstenson, trailing smoke in personal T-28, like him retired from the Navy, and a musical tribute playing the service hymns of each branch of the armed services in turn, with veterans from each standing to be recognized as their tune was played.

Retired US Army Colonel Herb Savage, a World War II veteran, looking like Sgt. Pepper in his full-dress uniform, was sung to, not his theme song “God Bless America,” but “Happy Birthday,” an advance tribute for his 100th birthday coming up in January.

American Legion Post #404 Commander Lee Rubenstein led the POW/MIA ceremony, explaining the significance of a “table for one” set for one who cannot enjoy the repast. Keith Dameron acted as master of ceremonies, and choked up with emotion as he concluded the proceedings.

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