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Forgotten Warriors – Their Journey

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Hanging on the wall of American Legion Post #16 in Lynchburg is a banner proclaiming The Forgotten Warriors. Above that line is the phrase Women in the Military; below is the phrase Women on the Homefront.

On March 16, the scores of women who gathered for much of the day were not forgotten but were front and center at the seventh annual “Empowering Female Veterans, Wives, Widows & Caregivers Event,” sponsored by AARP Virginia.

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Women veterans from the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines were there from the local area and surrounding communities with some attending from as far away as West Virginia and New Jersey. The ages of the veterans ranged from 38 to 86 years old. Gold Star family members - who lost a relative in the line of duty in military service - wives of veterans and caregivers of veterans joined the veterans in attendance.

Featured speakers included Elsie Flood, a U.S. Army veteran and AARP volunteer and native of Lynchburg, who spoke about caregiving, the emphasis of the event. Flood wowed attendees with her passionate presentation on the importance of beginning the process of planning before the need arises suddenly due to a heart attack, stroke, or serious accident. She focused on the Five Steps of Planning for Caregiving: Start the conversation; Form your team; Make a plan; Find Support and Care for yourself.

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The oldest and youngest members of the Mess in attendance, Shelvie Wood, born in 1939 and who served in the U.S. Air Force and Jasmine Lipscomb, born in 1986 and a U.S. Marine, partnered to use a saber to cut the cake - a tribute to the U.S. Navy’s tradition of “cutting the cake.” The ceremony symbolizes those who are the younger service members standing on the shoulders of the older members and who are charged with leadership into the future.

To honor all attendees, there was a roll call where veterans shared their names, branch of service, and the beginning and ending years of their service, led by emcee and local radio personality, Janet Rose. There was also a memorial ceremony and time of silence for fallen service women and men led by retired Air Force Col. Donna Fore.

A theme that was a thread throughout the event was that of journey—their journey of service, their journey after their service back into their lives as civilians, their journey of caregiving past, present, or future including their journey of accessing the care veterans need in the aftermath of their service.

There was no one in that room that day who was willing to let those who were in attendance and the hundreds of thousands of women who have served and died for freedom be forgotten. The sense of family, camaraderie, and fellowship was palpable. The hugs, tears, and promises of “next year,” were all signs of the unspoken pact that none would ever be forgotten.

AARP’s support for veterans and military families and its advocacy on behalf of caregivers at all levels is ongoing and a priority for the organization. For additional information on AARP resources and materials available for veteran and military families click here.

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