September 4, 2010
Although this year’s theme at the 111th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention was “Salute to
Korean War Veterans,” I had the honor and privilege to attend the convention on behalf of Operation
Courage is Beautiful as a distinguished guest of the VFW’s She Serves Community and honoree at
the VFW She Serves Networking Session. My quick trip proved to be a heartwarming and inspiring
experience that will forever stay with me.
I arrived in beautiful Indianapolis the evening of August 23rd, 2010, to be warmly welcomed by the
lovely Ms. Cano “G” from the VFW Washington office. I then met the VFW Director of National
Membership Matthew Claussen and Associate Director Troy Danderson. From there, I joined the
informal She Serves evening reception where I had the privilege to hear about the projects, challenges,
initiatives, concerns, and achievements of some of the members of the She Serves Community.
Those in attendance included Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Cynthia Pritchett, the Department of
Pennsylvania She Serves Chairman Barbara Loncar, the National Deputy Chief of Staff and MC Karen
Nigara, and Department of Minnesota She Serves Chairman Jaimie Bahl. (Yes, they also discussed the
At the She Serves Networking Session the next morning, I had the honor of listening to the wise words
and incredible experiences of Keynote Speaker Cynthia Pritchett, who is the longest serving female
Soldier and first woman ever to serve as a Command Sergeant Major, which she did for 27,000 coalition
forces in Afghanistan. During her speech, she stated that she hopes that women in the future will no
longer be recognized for being “the first woman,” but rather “the first person” to pioneer a certain
Attendees of the Networking Session, including San Diego’s very own Marilyn Maxwell of Post 3787 in
Mission Valley, were (very) pleasantly surprised when Nashville recording star Ricky Lee serenaded the
crowd with “She’s An American Soldier,” a song he wrote in dedication to our woman warriors.
As he was singing and making his way through the crowd, I was extremely touched to see many of the
women veterans, some of whom are Korean War veterans, with tears streaming down their faces as
Ricky Lee sang the words:
It’s ten pm, and I tuck in Johnny.
The little boy cries, ‘Daddy, I miss Mommy. Will she be home soon?…
She’s a mother and daughter, she’s an angel to me.
She’s an American Soldier, she’s a hero to me.
He was singing about the women in the room, including Billie Hovey (Woman Veterans
Chairperson, Ca), Charine Zsalduko (District 7 Commander) and active Soldier Terri A., who was
on a very short rest and recuperation break. Terri decided to spend her time at the Convention
before heading back to Iraq in the next couple of days. (OCIB has since sent her and her fellow
female soldiers some care packages as well!)
Afterwards, CSM Cynthia Pritchett and I were presented plaques from the VFW She Serves
Community. Hers for her service IN the military. Ours for our service FOR the military.
At the end of the session, I walked away with a great sense of pride and humility all at once. I
was very proud of what these amazing women have done in their lifetime that has ultimately
opened up so many opportunities for those who follow in their footsteps. I was simultaneously
humbled to have been in the presence of these and the thousands of other veterans who
walked through the halls of the convention.
I know that there are many other troops serving overseas and risking their lives. All I can do is to
continue to express my appreciation through Operation Courage is Beautiful, to hope that we
can make a difference and bring a smile to our soldiers’ faces, and to inspire others to join our
Thank you to our troops and veterans.