On the heels of the military announcing plans to recruit women for combat roles, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano and the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency (VSA) today honored nine women veterans and an active duty military Purple Heart recipient at a special “Women in the Military” Celebration at the Milleridge Inn Cottage in Jericho. The honorees, who served between World War II and current day operations, are trailblazers – having broken gender barriers to pave the way for other women to serve in the military in a variety of capacities. Sponsors of the celebration included CSEA, Kim’s Cakes of Seaford, PFC Joseph Dwyer PTSD Peer-to-Peer Veterans Support program, Estee Lauder, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Bethpage Florist.
County Executive Mangano stated, “Throughout history, women have taken on a variety of roles and ranks in our military and have served our nation with commitment, honor and leadership. This week, we pause to recognize and thank women veterans for their contributions toward protecting freedom and democracy around the globe.”
- Army Major Nancy C. Leftenant Colon – the first African-American woman accepted into the Army Nurse Corps, during World War II, and the only woman to hold the presidency of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. from 1989-1991.
- Marine Sgt. Tess Garber – enlisted and worked as a teletype operator – at a time when women of the WWII generation began filling jobs once thought of as exclusively men’s work. Tess started a groundbreaking trend that forever broadened the role of women in America. Post military, she worked for the Nassau County Library System, for 30 years.
- Air Force 1st Class Diamantina Ruiz Jannone – served as a flight traffic specialist with the Military Air Transport Service, and routed air traffic when President Kennedy deployed thousands of troops to West Berlin. She also assisted in the transportation of soldiers and cargo en-route to Vietnam.
- Marine Lt. Antoinette Waller – first served as a Drill Instructor and Gunnery Sergeant, then became the first enlisted female Marine Aide to the 31st and 32nd Commandants of the Corp. A decorated officer, she helped establish the first United States Marine Corps base in Korea; and today is a Tactical Officer at the S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point.
- Retired Naval Commander Phyllis Zagano – began as a Navy Reserve Public Affairs Officer at the Recruiting Office in East Meadow in 1976. The highly decorated officer served in public affairs positions across the globe – as well as in the NY Naval Militia. Today, she works in the Religion Department at Hofstra.
- Army Reserve Sgt. Phoebe Ervin – served in Operation Desert Storm/Shield in 1990, and to Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom, after the 9/11 Terror Attack. She served as a Platoon Sergeant of 20 soldiers, and a combat medic. Once back home, she continued to serve, with her fellow veterans, through the Vet Peer Support program.
- Air Force Major Stacey Cowap – served in the U.S. Air Force – Space Systems Division – as a Launch System Integration Manager. She also served as a secretary for Air Force special projects and in the military aircraft industry.
- Marine Lance Corporal Crystal Ventrelli-Broskie– enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004, completing basic, combat and Personnel Administration training. Stationed at a Base in Hawaii, she served as a personnel administration clerk at the Installation Personnel Administration Center.
- Army Corporal Heather B. Arrue – served in the Army during Grenada from 1983 to 1984, as a Material Storage and Handling Specialist. She was stationed in Hanau, Germany. Her current assignment is at a nuclear facility.
- Kimberly Young – a Purple Heart recipient currently serving in the United States Army.
The history of women in the military dates back to the Revolutionary War, in 1775. During World War I, 12,000 women enlisted in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps; about 400 died during the war. In World War II, 350,000 women served in the U.S. military. During World War II, the U.S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guard created reserves – and the Army created the Auxiliary Corps – and more than 150,000 women served in them. Fast forward to 1991, more than 40,000 women served in the Gulf War – integrated with men, in a warzone – engaging with enemy forces on an unprecedented level. Although women in the military suffered a setback in 1994, when the Defense Secretary prohibited them from serving in direct ground combat, many continued to serve in combat roles and on the front lines as needed as the Pentagon overturned that rule the following year. As of 2015, women make up about 15% of the U.S. military. More than 165,000 women are enlisted and active in the armed services with over 35,000 additional women serving as officers.