2018-04-16 / Front Page

Women veterans share beauty of strength

Times Record Staff

IONA OSNOE, 97, of Topsham, talks about her service with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps at Saturday’s women veterans luncheon in Bath. 
DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD IONA OSNOE, 97, of Topsham, talks about her service with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps at Saturday’s women veterans luncheon in Bath. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD BATH

Female veterans were celebrated Saturday, marking the first time such an occasion took place in Bath.

A free “morning of pampering” and lunch, with attendees ranging in age from 18 to 97, took place at Smith-Tobey Post 21.

Among the women taking advantage Saturday of the “morning pampering” was Linzi Fitzgerald of Woolwich, who got a free haircut. She enlisted in the Navy in 1998 after high school and served until 2006 while posted at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. A hospital corpsman, Fitzgerald is graduating next month with a bachelor’s degree in applied sciences from the University of Maine at Augusta — a degree paid for as a result of her service — with minors in business administration, sociology and behavioral science.

Saturday’s event is the first veterans event she’s attended just for women.

“It’s really awesome to see that we’re not forgotten,” Fitzgerald said. “They know that we’re here. To have something that’s just for us is pretty amazing.”

She acknowledged that people are surprised to hear she is a veteran. She has veteran license plates and often if she’s with her boyfriend, people will thank him for his service.

“She’s the hero,” he responds.

Besides her children, her time in the Navy was the best experience of her life.

“I met so many cool people and saw so many places,” Fitzgerald said. “I was stationed in Iceland. I never would have gone there.”

A shy person before enlisting, the Navy gave her the drive to accomplish her goals, she said.

“It definitely makes us stronger,” Fitzgerald said.

A guest speaker Saturday was Sgt. Marina Gray, a veteran who has spent six years training with the Maine Army National Guard as a 92 Foxtrot petroleum supply specialist.

She is also Miss Maine USA 2018 and will be competing in the Miss USA competition in mid-May.

“It’s really special to be a woman in the military,” Gray, 22, said. “I’ve worked so hard for all the things I’ve gained in my life by being a strong independent woman.

“But being in the military, I sacrificed something that I felt a lot of other women got to embrace and that was their physical beauty,” she added. “And that was something I was scared to embrace for a very long time.”

Since she won the Miss Maine USA crown, her first pageant ever, Gray said, “I’ve had so many girls reach out to me and be like, ‘You rock. Go rock the heels, go rock the eyelashes, go get it girl.’”

She welcomed the reaction, because she was nervous about stepping into that role. Like her fellow women veterans, she’s tried to be seen as strong and for the work she puts in, the relationships she’s built and the difference she’s made.

“I hope to recognize that when I go to Miss USA,” she said.

Also in the ranks Saturday was 97-year-old Iona Osnoe of Topsham, who has been a member of the American Legion for 69 years. She joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in November 1942, and joined in 1945. Osnoe has held many titles within the organization, and she is proud of her service. She wishes more female veterans would identify themselves as such.

“We just never connected,” said Joy Asuncion, retired from the U.S. Navy, and Maine’s ambassador for The Women in Military Service for America Memorial. “Now we’re connecting as women veterans through these types of luncheons.”

She also manages a Facebook group, “Maine Women Veterans,” to help foster those connections.

Tricia Thurston, the American Legion Department of Maine chaplain, said the Women Veteran’s Advisory Committee guides posts that want to hold similar events. The luncheons allow women from a proud sisterhood to come together and share a special camaraderie, no matter what branch of military they served in, and learn more about resources that exist for them.

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