In November, Albany will celebrate its 66th annual Veterans Day Parade and honor another veteran of the year.
Organizers hope that veteran will be a woman, and all female veterans will be honored as parade grand marshals.
Al Severson, vice chair of the Veterans Commemoration Association, which sponsors the annual parade and ancillary festivities, said it's about time.
“I’ve been involved with the parade since the 1970s and it struck us recently that although we have honored women veterans ... as distinguished veterans, we’ve never honored a woman as veteran of the year,” Severson said. “We hope that this is the year we do.”
Some 350,000 women served in military branches during WWII, 100,000 served in Korea and more than 11,000 in Vietnam.
Today, more than 200,000 women serve in all branches of the military, including 74,000 in the Army, 53,000 in the Navy, 62,000 in the Air Force and 14,000 in the Marine Corps.
“I thought that maybe some of the older veterans might not like the idea,” Severson said. “But the response has overwhelmingly been positive. Most have said it’s a great idea and long overdue.”
Severson said men will not be excluded for nomination, but he encouraged people to nominate women as well.
“We hope to recognize women who have assisted at all levels of the war effort in some way,” Severson said. “To be named veteran of the year, they will need to have a military record, but we also hope to recognize those who served by working as Rosie the Riveter or in other war efforts.”
In addition to Severson, Veterans Commemoration Association officers are Patty Louisiana, president; Doug Diller, second vice-president; Kate Benson, secretary; and Marilyn Myers, treasurer.
Louisiana said the idea to seek a female veteran of the year came about after she spoke with a Corvallis resident who had served as a lieutenant in the Navy during the Korean War. She worked in hospitals in San Diego. Her responsibilities included meeting the hospital ships that were carrying injured soldiers home.
“She talked about the work she did as a nurse in the U.S. Navy, but wondered if she was a veteran as she only met the ships,” Louisiana said. “She was sure she helped 'her boys,' as she called them. She served with honor and yet never really considered herself or really knew if she was a veteran.”
Louisiana arranged for the woman to ride in last year’s parade in a bright red Corvette.
Although parade applications won’t be available until August, nomination forms for veteran of the year are available by contacting Severson at The Frame House, 434 First Ave. W.
Nominees must be honorably discharged and volunteer in their communities.