Meredith College held its annual Honoring Women Veterans event on November 8, 2017 in Jones Chapel.
The event, which honors all who have served in the military and places special emphasis on the service of women veterans, featured keynote speaker Lt. Col. Bernie Donato.
Donato, who served in the military for 24 years, is the veteran engagement coordinator for Team Red, White & Blue Raleigh/Durham Chapter and the senior vice commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Durham Post 2740. She spent the first half of her career in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, and later in the California Air National Guard where she was assigned to the 146th Tactical Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. She was deployed to multiple operational areas including Panama, Korea, and Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In her civilian career, Donato was a registered nurse for more than 40 years and a reserve police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 11 years.
The 1970s, when Donato entered the military, was a time of change. Some restrictions on women’s service were dropped and over the years more opportunities became available for women who wanted to serve their country.
Donato emphasized that many women had served their country earlier in U.S. history, including Mary Edwards Walker, who earned a Medal of Honor as an Army surgeon in the Civil War, and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) in World War II. These women were not officially considered veterans.
“I applaud the patriotism of the women who paved the way,” Donato said. “I applaud their fortitude, their perseverance, and the grit of women in the military.”
In the first Gulf War, more than 40,000 women were deployed, and the first women were allowed to fly in combat zones. In 2013, the ban on women in combat was finally lifted.
“I thank the women who served and who continue to serve, and the family and friends who support them,” Donato said.
The Honoring Women Veterans event also included a medley of service hymns and anthems, during which veterans in attendance were recognized. The event closed with a presentation by Enloe High School’s U.S. Army JROTC Drill/Exhibition Team in front of Johnson Hall.
Other Meredith Veterans Day Activities: