With Gov. Phil Murphy not yet back from a campaign trip to Iowa for Sen. Cory Booker, Sheila Oliver was acting governor Wednesday morning. She took the opportunity to sign a resolution designating every June 12 as Women Veterans Appreciation Day in New Jersey.
One speaker reminded the audience that women once disguised themselves as men in order to fight in the Revolution and the Mexican-American War. Women didn’t become full regular military until 1948 under President Harry Truman.
Oliver said women in the armed forces have unique needs.
“Many of them who serve in National Guard units often get called overseas and in the drop of a second they’ve got to make all kinds of arrangements around child care and sustaining their homes,” she said.
It’s about getting the state to focus on them, she told the audience at Prudential headquarters in Newark. Today’s military is about 15% female, but the women still feel underrecognized, one veteran said.
“There’s the identification of a male veteran, they could easily wear a hat, they can maintain the haircut. But there’s not a lot of identifiers for the woman veteran. We can still walk into the VA and they think we’re there as a spouse,” said Army veteran Lucy Del Gaudio.
Advocates say there are 26,000 women veterans in New Jersey. Oliver said she still gets goose bumps when she sees video of Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill getting into a helicopter.
The women at the event said they want to be part of history.
“It’s not just men that put on the uniform. Women are there too, not just as nurses and caregivers. We’re there with them, supporting them, guiding them at the front line,” said Army veteran Yahaira Padilla.
In the grand scheme of things, an appreciation day is not a big deal, unless it’s your group that’s being appreciated.