MARINA, California -- An American Legion luncheon honoring women who wore the uniform years ago was celebrated by women still in uniform.
From a private to lieutenant colonel, 17 women service members from the Presidio of Monterey told their military story to the 24 attendees of the American Legion Post 694's event recognizing women veteran, widow and widower members on Feb. 18 here.
"The message I wanted to share is that today's women warriors are a diverse and powerful group," said Lt. Col. Toni Sabo, commander of 229th Military Intelligence Battalion at the Presidio. "So instead of standing alone, I brought a talented group of women who I am proud to call my sisters-in-arms. Today's military women are serving at an exciting time when opportunities to achieve success in every aspect of military service exist."
Rain and wind storms for the two days prior left the Marina Post without power. Members used a generator to cook and serve the meal in a building without lights or heat.
"We were delighted to have so many active duty military women attend and it was wonderful to see so many branches of the armed services represented," said Sue Baker, organizer of the luncheon. "Since our post is in Marina, we are somewhat isolated, so this was also a great opportunity for our members to interact with active duty military in a casual setting."
The setting may have been casual but it was an emotional experience for Capt. Katherine Yeager, the Associate Dean of the Middle East School I at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.
"What I didn't anticipate was the emotion of the event, meeting many ladies that served, or were spouses of those that did," she said. "The passion behind their service to our country still lingered well after they, or their spouses, have retired. We got to tell our stories, but hear theirs as well. And they had such amazing stories to tell!"
Yeager attended because she believes it's important to encourage the Presidio's service members to integrate into the Monterey Bay area communities.
"The military compose a large part of the local community and any way that we as service members can contribute, volunteer, or share our stories, is positive," she said. "Educating those around us, and those around us educating our service members develops a tight-knit community."
For Pfc. Jillian Fiorentino, a Persian Farsi student from Company D, 229th MI Bn., attending the luncheon was a break from school and duty.
"I just wanted to meet these women and show them that we are serving, honoring them, and thanking them for what they have done for us," she said. "When I was told this was for women veterans and widows of veterans, I was instantly interested in going to honor these women. I joined in order to honor veterans and fight for my country, so this event was right up my alley."
Fiorentino enjoyed the gratitude the legion members showed the service members.
"It is stressful at DLI and it is a nice reminder for us that people are supporting us," she said. "It is important for us, as service members, to feel appreciated and remember why we serve."