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    New Jersey Guard recognizes impact of Women Veterans

    New Jersey Air National Guard Commander tours Federal Medical Station Atlantic City

    Photo By Master Sgt. Matt Hecht | U.S. Air Force Col. Yvonne Mays, left, director of staff, New Jersey Air National...... read more read more



    Story by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht 

    New Jersey National Guard   

    The first Women Veterans Day was held June 12, 2018, marking the 70th anniversary of the groundbreaking Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman June 12, 1948. It enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and the recently formed Air Force. With the third Women Veterans Day approaching, the New Jersey National Guard recently reached out to women veterans within its ranks for perspective on the observance.

    “It’s not about what I’ve gotten, it’s about who I’ve become,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Yvonne Mays, Director of Staff for New Jersey’s Joint Force Headquarters-Air, when reflecting on her military service.

    “I joined the active duty Air Force right out of high school,” said Mays. “I thought I would earn my way through college by joining the Air Force, and it was the best decision of my life.”

    Mays feels that Women Veterans Day is an opportunity to educate everyone on the impact women have made in the armed forces.

    “Observances like this are important so that we understand that it wasn’t always like this, so that we can advocate for one another and make things better for future generations,” said Mays. “To see young people, who I had the privilege of enlisting, and now see them as commissioned officers leading squadrons, those are proud moments for me.”

    U.S. Army Sgt. Samantha Merryfield, a Soldier with the 328th Military Police Company, and 2019 New Jersey Best Warrior winner, loves the challenges the military throws her way.

    “I hate running, but I love ruck marching,” said Merryfield. “I love the aspect of pushing myself mentally. That is my favorite thing about the military. I need to prove a female can do it, and I need to prove to myself that I can do what you can do, and then maybe some more.”

    Merryfield said the she also valued the military for putting her in close proximity to a diverse group of service members, and despite their differences, they all found common bonds.

    “When you’re deployed, you’re with each other every single day,” said Merryfield. “You never get a break from these people, they get on your nerves, but they become the closest people to you.”

    “Women Veterans Day is an excellent day to reflect on the sacrifices females have made for our country,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patricia Richter, who is also the Acting Director of the Division of Veterans Services for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

    “Since 1948, women have been part of the armed forces, and unofficially long before that,” said Richter. “The pathway to where we stand today is filled with sacrifices, tenacity, and determination of women who didn’t let anything get in their way. As a woman who has navigated the challenges of being in a male-dominated field, I proudly honor all women who came before me.”

    “Now, females can go out there and participate and be part of the infantry, and be in combat arms, and be in artillery,” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Paula Cantara, who is with New Jersey’s 254th Regional Training Institute. “A lot more doors have opened for females over the past fifteen years.”

    Cantara said that the highlight of her career was being deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    “I got to meet a lot of good Soldiers and interact with a different culture. It was a very interesting time in my career,” said Cantara. “Be the best that you can be, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get to a position of authority, because you can do it.”

    “All of my life, in and around the military, I have experienced some of my best and my worst moments in my life, in the military with my military family,” said Mays. “My mentors and my friends have been there to celebrate, to grieve, to help me through it, and when people say there’s nothing like the military, it is a true statement.”



    Date Taken: 06.10.2020
    Date Posted: 06.10.2020 11:43
    Story ID: 371816

    Web Views: 122
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