For Fay Bright, Veterans Day reflects the growth of women in the military.
Bright was an airman first class stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi and later at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane from 1989 until 1992. She said she worked as a personnel specialist directly with the flight squads that serviced the aircraft. Her father is an Air Force veteran and her husband is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. But when she joined the military, Bright said she felt that her superiors expected very little from her.
“Honestly when I went to my first base, I walked in and I had a sergeant tell me ‘Oh great, a pretty face. All she’s going to do is sit there and file her nails,’” Bright said. “In a way, it helped me because the type of person I am, it just made me stubborn and want to prove myself. It was a struggle in that way, just proving that we as women could do more than that.”
Bright is one of five women who will be the grand marshals in this today’s Veterans Day Parade. The other grand marshals include Jimmie Ellis, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1973 to 1994; Jamie Brassard and Lynn Herriott, both of whom served in the U.S. Marine Corps.; and Cheryl Budinger, who served in the U.S. Army for six years.
The parade starts at 10 a.m., running from 9th and H streets to Front Street.
A luncheon will follow the parade at noon at the Veterans Memorial Hall. Brassard will be the guest speaker at the luncheon, according to Rodney Reid, a member of the Veterans Day Parade and Luncheon committee.
The luncheon will be catered by the Lake Earl Grange. Veterans and their spouses dine for free. The cost for the public is $8.
Bright, who left the military on a medical discharge in 1992 when the first Gulf War was starting, said she remembers watching people from her squadron on TV giving the all-clear for a plane to take off from Turkey. But, she said, she wouldn’t have been sent to Turkey.
“They wouldn’t have sent about half of our group mechanics and electricians that were women,” she said. “They would have been left at the station base in Washington instead of being sent with the other crews to Turkey at that point in time.”
In recent years, women are starting to be recognized for their contribution to the United States military more often, Bright said. But the assumption is still there that if someone has a child in the military, that child is a son, she said.
Herriott, who was stationed at Camp Pendleton as a diesel mechanic from 1996 to 1999, said she thinks things have changed a lot for women who serve. During her time in the Marines, Herriott said she was one of five other women were stationed with an infantry unit. Two worked as mechanics and the other three worked in the company office.
Though she went to the same school they did, Herriott said her male counterparts had the initial idea that she “couldn’t possibly know” what she was doing.
“But that didn’t last very long,” she said. “Once I started working, they figured out I knew more than they did and they were cool with it.”
Herriott said she thought it was interesting that women in the military used to be kept out of combat situations. She noted that if you’re in a war zone, you don’t know where conflict might strike.
Herriott said she thinks military officials realize that by not offering women the same training as men, if they are in a conflict situation they could be put in harm’s way. She said when she was in the military, she wasn’t sent out for cold weather training or desert training even though her male counterparts were required to have that training.
“My job ... going out and fixing things, if I were out in a war zone I would have been sent up to the front lines to pull a transmission or whatever happened to a vehicle — if it’s down I am going to be there,” Herriott said. “I’m going to be where stuff is happening, so I think they’ve finally realized that statement doesn’t fit and it can’t fit. If you’re in the military, you’re in the military.”
Budinger, who was a specialist E4 when she was stationed at Fort Campbell, Tennessee, was deployed twice to Afghanistan. As a petroleum fuel specialist, she drove big fuel trucks, made sure helicopters were fueled and loaded ammunition. She said she worked with “one to five” other women.
“I feel like there’s more women now, it’s more common and normal now,” Budinger said. “But sometimes being a fueler, there weren’t many women that liked to be fuelers. When I would go out sometimes I’d be the only female (out of) 15 males.”
Budinger said the men she served with were just like brothers.
“You learned who everybody really was,” she said. “You see their true colors and you really connected.”
Budinger, however, said for her, her military service isn’t something she really likes to be thanked for.
“I actually like going out and finding other veterans and thanking them,” she said. “They’re the ones who made all this possible.”
Herriott said to her Veterans Day is for those who served during times of war. She said she enjoyed being in the military, but since she was medically discharged after three years, she feels she didn’t get to finish out her time.
“I am a veteran, but I don’t really look at myself that way, I guess,” she said. “It was fun. I enjoyed it. It wasn’t horrible.”
For more information about the parade and luncheon, call Reid at 707-476-3701.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .