Here is where my heart is….so I hope you enjoy this article, Eva. February 16, 2015 9:37 pm Larry Zimmerman SD Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary
March is heralded as the month to celebrate the accomplishments of women. Throughout history, our women veterans took on a variety of roles and rose through the ranks and they served honorably. Let us take the time this March to honor the rich legacy of service women in the past, the valor with which women serve today, and the promise of greatness inherent in the women who dream of serving this great nation in the future. During my military career of 33 years, I was fortunate to have served with many women.We’re blessed with extraordinary women who risk their lives every day so that each of us can live in peace and freedom. During my 2012 deployment to Afghanistan, I was fortunate to have many dedicated female service members by my side. I especially remember my Air Liaison Officer, (ALO), and a couple of radio operators, who were full-time, female, active duty, Air Force. Many days at 1500 in the afternoon I would go for a quick run around the perimeter of our Forward Operating Base, (FOB). It was just over three miles. Yes I could run it in 24 minutes. Yes, I ran it without oxygen!!!! My route would take me past the Afghan Army guard towers and through one of their gates. The ALO liked to run with me because she could outrun me, the old man, and to have a male colleague on the run. The radio operators joined periodically as did many others. Having a male only Brigade of 3,200 Afghan Soldiers outside our door and on or near the only running option was somewhat intimidating and I vowed to never let the females run alone. Having partners was a great plan – that’s what being a TEAM is all about. I know it comes as no surprise that My ALO beat me to the finish everyday, but she always waited and thanked me for running with them. Today women serve in the United States military in unprecedented numbers — 15 %. Women have become an integral part of every operation and faction the country has been sent into for decades. Women veterans are an invaluable human resource—focused, committed, and mission-driven. All of us understand that, but we have to do a better job to ensure women veterans have access to supportive services and benefits they need and earned selflessly serving. So as March draws near I ask all of you to reach out to the women veterans in your life —- say “thank you.” My first visit will be with MildredRextroat,a surviving WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilots). She is the last in South Dakota, and is the only known female Native American to serve as a WASP. Thank you grandmothers, mothers, aunts, nieces, sisters, and daughters, for your service to the great country and to our Armed Forces.