On the heels of the military announcing plans to recruit women for combat roles, the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency (VSA) honored nine women veterans and an active duty military Purple Heart recipient at a special Women in the Military Celebration at the Cottage at Milleridge Inn in Jericho on May 4. 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.
• Ret. 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. Garber started a groundbreaking trend that forever broadened the role of women in America.
• 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 Master Sergeant 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 U.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.
• Army Reserve Sgt. Phoebe Ervin: served in Operation Desert Storm/Shield in 1990 and in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom after the 9/11 terror attacks. 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 Captain 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 1983-84 as a material storage and handling specialist. She was stationed in Hanau, Germany.
• Kimberly Young—a Purple Heart recipient currently serving in the United States Army.