Mineola, NY – Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano honored eleven female WWII Veterans at the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage today, as part of Nassau County’s 2nd Annual Women in the Military Recognition Ceremony,
This year’s theme was “Opening the Door” and honored military women considered trailblazers for future females serving in the armed forces.
County Executive Mangano began his opening remarks by welcoming all the “brave and dedicated women veterans,” there and thanking them all for their service.
“Today we bestow a special honor on women who served in the military during World War II,” he said. “To coin a well-known phrase from television journalist Tom Brokaw, you ladies represent the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”
“On behalf of a grateful County, and administration, thank you all for your selfless service and sacrifice to our Country,” he continued. “We would not enjoy the freedoms we do here, were it not for the members of our Armed Forces.”
Last year, County Executive Mangano proclaimed the first week in May as “Women in the Military Week” in Nassau, and announced the forming of Women in the Military (W.I.T.M.) Inc. which is headquartered in the County. The group’s mission is to bring together women with unique shared military experience, for camaraderie, empowerment, advocacy and charity.
The seven honorees present for today’s tribute were presented with citations, engraved “stars,” a bouquet of flowers and a gift basket.
They were thanked for their service and sacrifice to our country and recognized in an empowering keynote speech by a female army veteran who runs the Army ROTC at St. John’s University.
Also in attendance at today’s recognition luncheon was Armor Museum founder and benefactor, Lawrence Kadish and his wife Susan.
Museum board member Eileen Daly Sapraicone spoke about creating a permanent display at the facility, that tells the story of women in the United State military – a piece she said all agreed is sorely missing from the collection.
Sylinthia Burges, who County Executive Mangano hired 3 years ago as Nassau’s first-ever Female Veterans Counselor, organized the event along with board members of the Women in The Military organization she founded.
Sponsors of today’s event include: Semper4Veteran Inc., Nassau County United Veterans, The MHA – PFC Dwyer Peer Support program and Marissa P. Giglio Consulting.
The honorees were between 92-97 years of age, represent Army, Navy, Marine & Air Corp – and all served between 1942-46, during the 2nd World War.
The Keynote speaker was Rachel Conliffe, of St. John’s University Army ROTC and the US Army Reserves, who founded It’s Like Honey! Women’s Empowerment Movement. Closing the ceremony was Deputy Director of the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency, Paul Vista.
It’s estimated that there are at least 1,500 women veterans in Nassau, judging by the number of LI women that have sought treatment at the VA. The true number is probably far higher.
More than 350,000 women served in various capacities in the U.S. military during World War II – including working as military analysts, lab techs, clerks and radio operators.
Mangano said it was a groundbreaking trend that forever broadened the role of women in America.
“What better place to recognize and honor women who served during WWII than a venue that allows you to step back in time and explore World War II history complete with living historians, tanks and artillery, and simulated fire fight demonstrations,” he added. “This museum is a unique commitment by public and private sectors to preserve and present a seminal chapter in the history of our nation… and our world.”
Later this month, the Museum will host a World War II Encampment and Battlefield Reenactment weekend – where living historians in period gear, representing a variety of forces, will present vintage weapons and offer hands on displays while engaged in tactical exercises.
The 11 women honored today were identified through an unprecedented outreach, by the Nassau County VSA, to as many women veterans living on Long Island as possible. Each was a trailblazer – breaking gender barriers & paving the way for future women to serve in the military in different capacities.
These were the 7 honorees in attendance:
- Marine Sgt. Tess Pierce Garber. Tess enlisted in 1943 and served as a teletype operator. Post military, she worked for the Nassau County Library System, for 30 years.
- Army Lt. Nurse Eleanor Rizzuto. Eleanor served from 1942 to 1945, in both North Africa and Italy, where her unit was based.
- Army Corporal Mary Gibson. Mary served from 1944 to 1946, and was stationed in Des Moines, Iowa. Her assignment was to process the paperwork for soldiers to be sent to their assigned locations.
- Army PFC Diana Esther Montanez. Diana served for 3 years in the Photographic and Journalism Corp – in New Jersey and Georgia. She also made maps and translated manuals and educational materials into different languages.
- Navy Yeoman 3rd Class Laura Fortner. Laura was stationed at the Bureau of Yards & Docks, in Washington DC, for 18 months. She was in Washington when Theodore Roosevelt died, & attended his funeral.
- Marine Staff Sgt. Barbara Kruse. Barbara attended boot camp at Hunter College, and spent part of the 2 ½ years she served, doing recruiting – in New Orleans and Oklahoma City. She was presented with the WWII victory medal and Special Congressional Recognition citation.
- Army Air Corp PFC Josephine Boccio. Josephine served for 2 years in Rome, NY. She was the solder with the Marching Rhythm, giving the orders for other soldiers that it was lunchtime.
Those 4 honored posthumously were:
- Army LT/Navy Nurse Ruth Vargas. Ruth enlisted in 1942 before the WACS and WAVES were created. She was stationed in Georgia and Oklahoma for 2 1/2 years. Part of her time was spent working at the Naval hospital. Stateside, she worked part-time in the Northport VA Hospital’s maternity ward.
- Marine Corporal Annabelle Weiss. Annabelle served 2 years – as a driver, inspecting plane engines and later on as a nurse. She was presented with the WWII victory medal and Special Congressional Recognition citation. Later, she was diagnosed with service-related thyroid cancer and today uses a service animal trained through America’s VetDogs.
- Army Sgt. Helen M. Wilson. Helen was the first African-American woman from Long Island to serve in the Women’s Army Corp.
- Army WAC Virginia Tyner. Virginia was assigned to the Training Division at Fort Hood, TX where she helped train enlisted men to use various weapons for overseas fighting. She also won the Army Lifesaving Badge, for saving a man’s life.