Let me begin by thanking the folks who thought enough of me to have me speak to you this evening. I am truly honored and humbled after visiting the Women Veterans Memorial. I would like to recognize Secretary Shinseki and those at the VA Center for Women Veterans for the outstanding work they have been doing to get our women veterans the healthcare they need and deserve. There is still much progress to be made, but I am encouraged that they are on the right track, particularly with their latest campaign of surveying women veterans to learn how to better service them. I applaud your new efforts at community outreach.
Friends and veterans, thank you for gathering here to recognize the contributions of women veterans. I know I speak for all of us here when I say you are important figures in the history of our nation – as well as important role models for our future.
The choice you made was not an easy one. You chose to place your personal needs behind the needs of your country. It takes a selfless person to do that, and I on behalf of AMVETS extend the warmest, most sincere, “Thank You,” for your service.
You are truly diverse, dynamic women who play many roles in your lives. To your families, you are Mothers, daughters, wives, aunts, sisters… And to your unit or shop, you are Gunny, Chief, or Top. You sure do wear many hats, but that’s the beauty of being a woman. I am not taking away anything from the men, because they sacrifice too, but there is a special strength with which God has blessed a woman. It’s tough to explain, and only He knows why, but you all are like chameleons. You do the work in the field alongside your brothers-in-arms without batting an eyelash. And then just that quick you can turn around to comfort your baby boy who just skinned his knee! You are respected and deserve this night of recognition. You deserve this “Thank You” for all that you do.
By celebrations such as this, we are highlighting your contributions to this great nation, and in doing so also helping to guarantee good services for the women who don the uniform in the future.
Whether you are a Soldier, Airman, Marine, Sailor or Coast Guardsmen, You are the driving force behind the American Dream. Your sacrifices in service allow us the freedoms we enjoy every day. AMVETS is committed to constantly reminding our leaders on Capitol Hill of the promises they made to you. We will continue to fight for legislation that makes life a little easier for those who serve and have served, and WILL serve in this country’s armed forces in the future.
I am pleased that not only does the VA seem committed to equality in its service, but it also intends to close the information gap about the benefits you have earned through your valiant sacrifices on behalf of our nation. AMVETS is here to help VA close that gap as well. Our service officers can help you file a claim, and educate you about the benefits to which you are entitled.
Now, I cannot, in good conscience, leave you all without extending an invitation to learn more about the fine organization that I lead. Unlike other VSOs, membership in AMVETS is open to anyone who is currently serving, or has honorably served, in the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to present, to include those in the National Guard and Reserves.
I know that VSOs have been wrongly perceived as a club for men, of sorts, and that we do not welcome women. But that is a myth that I have strived to help eradicate during my year as National Commander. AMVETS welcomes ALL, regardless of gender, race and ethnicity.
With women making up at least 15% of our military personnel today, we at AMVETS want to be sure that you, our veterans, know that you can turn to us for help. If you know a veteran, male or female, who needs help, tell them to visit AMVETS.org, or contact our National Programs Department to learn more about our programs.
In closing, I want to say one last thank you to the women veterans here today. Even though you may not have always known it, you were moving stones and creating a path for the women who will serve after you. This nation owes you a great debt of gratitude.
Your pride in your service is a tremendous source of patriotism in our communities. I am so proud of you. You are doing great things, and I know you will continue to provide outstanding leadership in your communities. I, and every one of our 180,000 AMVETS members are here to help in any way we can.
Because you made the vow, “I will serve, too,” – our nation is stronger. I am proud to be an American.