Conference honors women veterans

Written by Muleskinner Staff

From left, Army veteran Joy Smith, Vietnam era veteran Margaret Scott and Army veteran Tersa Shane, pose for a photo after Scott was awarded Woman Veteran of the Year last Friday. (Photo by DEREK SPENCE, for The Muleskinner)

Story by Derek Spence (For The Muleskinner)
Margaret Scott, a Vietnam era veteran who served as a 91-D20, an operating room specialist, was announced as Woman Veteran of the Year at the Missouri Women Veterans Conference last Friday, in Elliott Ballroom at UCM.
The event was hosted by the Missouri Veterans Commission Woman Veteran Coordinator, Amy Bennett, and the UCM Office of Military and Veteran Services.
The conference is dedicated to honoring and remembering women veterans who broke barriers and opened a new world for future female service members.
Keynote speakers were Col. Theresa Rodriguez, Commander of the 509th Medical Group at Whiteman Air Force Base, and Margaret Scott.
UCM’s ROTC posted the colors as a room full of veterans stood at attention. Anna Kay, freshman music major, sang the national anthem as they saluted.
Margaret Scott was presented with a sash, tiara, bouquet of flowers and a plaque honoring her years as a service member, as well as the 26-years she has spent serving the veteran community through volunteer work.
Scott’s volunteerism is extensive and includes her position as curator of the Pulaski County Museum in Waynesville, Mo., her presidency of the Historical Society of Pulaski County, and her volunteer fundraising through brick sales for the Fort Leonard Wood State Memorial.
“I think our people, our service members do well for themselves,” Scott said. “I just believe they need more backing and they need more respect, and we need to do more for our troops whenever we can.
“I can usually pick them out because of their haircut,” Scott joked. “When I do see them I go up to them and say, ‘thank you, thank you for your sacrifices,’ and I shake their hand. Sometimes I tell them I am a veteran and you just feel that connection going back. It just makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over and sometimes they need it more than you do.”
Monica Huffman, executive assistant to UCM’s president, is also a former service member.
“As a service member you don’t think about the sacrifices you and your family have made, you’re just doing your job,” Huffman said. “I don’t see the sacrifices that I’ve made as anything compared to the sacrifices they’re making today. The world situation is very different from the time that I went through. Today a lot more is expected of our soldiers, so any time I see a soldier I go up to them and tell them, ‘thank you for your service.”
As an active service member, Huffman assessed the readiness of soldiers in a four-state region who were about to be deployed overseas for Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003.
She served in the Army from 1968 until her retirement in 2008.
During her active duty, she was stationed in Honolulu for 30 months and during her reserve time, she was deployed to Germany for 18 months.
“I joined right out of high school,” Huffman said. “I didn’t feel ready for college at that time.  Later in life when I was 32, I took advantage of my government G.I. Bill and went to school. While I have given a lot, the military has given a lot to me, like my education as well as other opportunities and the retirement benefits I have to look forward to. It has just been a great thing to be a part of.”
During the ceremony, a prayer was said and the names and photographs of every woman service member who has died in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, were shown over the projector.
Col. Theresa Rodriguez, Commander of the 509th Medical Group at Whiteman Air Force Base, has been an active service member for 25 years.
“When I first joined… being a chief nurse would be the highest position for a female in the military,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t until several years later when they started opening up commander positions to women, and now here I am, a colonel. This was never something I looked forward to when I first joined.”
During her speech, Rodriguez explained that for years it was the policy for women to play a supportive role in war, away from combat. She remarked that it wasn’t until last November when for the first time, 23 female sailors were chosen to be crew members on submarines.
“It has been amazing watching the military community and the world open up to what women can do,” she said. “Now we have women in combat and as pilots fighting in combat situations. It’s just amazing.
“In combat it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. It doesn’t matter if the person in the foxhole next to you is a man or a woman. It only matters that they are competent, dedicated, and courageous.”
Additionally, Rodriguez acknowledged the support she feels from Warrensburg, Sedalia and the surrounding areas.
“Our community is awesome,” she said. “It’s amazing. I’ve been to areas where  the base had local ties, but here they treat you like this is where you were born and raised. If you’re stationed here, our community treats you like family; this is an awesome community.”