RENSSELAER FALLS – Cynthia J. Ford witnessed history as she stood on the floor as the New York State Assembly passed a resolution Monday declaring June 12 Women Veterans Recognition Day.
Ms. Ford was one of over 50 female veterans from all branches of the military who shared their experiences and the difficulties faced by veterans at a luncheon prior to the ceremony.
It was an honor and a privilege to be among such an amazing collection of women, ranging from WWII to Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, Ms. Ford said.
The event was hosted by Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, who serves as member of the Veterans Affairs Committee and chair of the subcommittee on Womens Veterans.
Ms. Ford, who served in the United States Air Force from 1994 to 1998, was one of only a few women selected to stand next to Mrs. Russell when she presented the resolution.
We often equate a solider with a male figure, Ms. Ford said. I think its important to raise awareness that were out there doing real jobs as real soldiers, and that Mrs. Russell shed light on that.
The Recognition Day came 63 years after the Womens Armed Forces Act of 1948 enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
My father was a retired Navy serviceman. Two out of the eight soldiers I met growing up were women. But those women only served in secretarial positions, Ms. Ford said. Weve come a long way. I have noticed the change over the years. Women now serve in a variety of areas - air traffic controllers, medicsthe military is broadening its horizons and career fields.
Ms. Ford, an account representative at Northern New York Newspapers Corporation, Ogdensburg, was stationed in Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. She later served as chief weather observer and weather journeyman, observing and reporting minute-to-minute weather conditions for national dissemination at Fort Drum. During her time of service, she received the expert marksman ribbon and was promoted early to senior airman before her date of separation.
While Ms. Ford said she is appreciative of the recognition women are now receiving, she said the honor should be extended to all veterans, not just women.
In military communities or bases, communities embrace their military, said Ms. Ford. But outside those environments, I dont think there is enough recognition for veterans. There is a disconnection between active duty and veterans. I dont think people realize how many veterans there are out there.
Mrs. Ford served as the only female on the committee of 7 veterans and two civilians which facilitated Military Appreciation Day and Career Fair Saturday. The event brought veterans from all over St. Lawrence County together.
Many veterans do not know what their options are, said Ms. Ford. It was after eight years of my retirement that I knew I qualified for health insurance through the VA. Thats what the Fair is all about.
The event included over 110 vendors with information about benefits, health care, the GI Bill, the Post Exchange, tax exemptions, Social Security, behavioral health, counseling, retiree services, educational opportunities and employers.
I am very proud of my service, said Ms. Ford. But I think our country could do better in the treatment of its veterans, and were continuing to work toward that end.