Honoring Veteran Women and Women Championing Veterans 

Date:

An event was held at the Golden Era Golf course on the 19th of May in celebration of the strength and service of Women Veterans and women who support Veterans.  The event was sponsored by Veterans Circle of Friends, the Rotary Club of Hemet and Golden Era Productions.

Members of Rotary Club of Hemet, Sonja Ramos, Laura Brock and Glen Brock serving lunch

There is a long history of women serving our country. American women have served their country going back to the Revolutionary war where women like Deborah Simpson disguised themselves as men and engaged in combat.  Other women have supported war efforts through nursing and other essential services which have carried on until this day. The ban on women in combat roles was lifted in 2013 which is a testament to the valor and competence of women who have been serving under fire since America’s earliest conflicts.

The Master of Ceremonies was Virginia Blumenthal and her Co-MC was the Honorable Mark Johnson.

Bobbie Neff of Veteran Circle of Friends with MCs Virginia Blumenthal and the Honorable Mark Johnson

Virginia is a strong supporter of Veterans and an advocate for women.  She is also one of the top 100 trial attorneys in the United States. Virginia serves on a number of prestigious boards in Riverside County yet she made time to honor these amazing women.    

Honorable Mark Johnson is a highly decorated Colonel of the United States Army who retired after 28 years of military service. He became a Superior Court Judge and presided over the Riverside County Veterans Court which he helped develop.  He is now the author of the newly released book, “Scars and Strife”. Virginia said, “I made Mark give me a pre-release copy of the book and I can tell you it is good!”

The opening remarks of the ceremony by Virginia was, “… we are here today honoring the military women and civilian supporters whose invaluable contributions have shaped our nation’s military history and today, it is an amazing list of women being honored. “

Reverend Jannet Guzman from the Loma Linda Veteran Affairs opened the event with an invocation followed by the Patriot Guards riding in on their motorcycles presented the colors.   Linda Greilich of Golden Era Productions sang the National Anthem. Together they created a reaction a rousing applause from the audience.

The first honoree was Theresa Seaton.  Theresa served in the Army Air Corps was 1949 to 1954. She is a member of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians and has been a cast member of the Ramona Pageant since 1940.   She has just celebrated her 94th birthday.

The second honoree was Barbara Barron.   Barbara a retired Army Veteran of 26 years.  She was the President of the Federal Employee Women Adelphi Chapter in Maryland.

The Patriot Guards presenting the Colors

Dr. Stephanie Bruce was the third honoree.  She served in the Army for over 7 years which included Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. She went on to create a non-profit, Black Voices of the Valley of which she is the Executive Director.

Martha Sylvia Zaragoza the fourth honoree gives more than 70 hours a week to service veterans. She is a daughter of a WWII Veteran, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary and the Patriot Guards.  She along with the Patriot Guards attend funeral services every Wednesday morning at the Riverside National Cemetery for our military heroes who have no families.

The fifth honoree was Ramonita Cruz who was a Marine deployed 3 times to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Since 2018 she has worked for the Riverside County Veterans Services to assist Veterans and their families.

Jackie Wayman the sixth honoree served in the U.S Army in Vietnam. While she may not have served in combat, she was posted as the Colonels driver and bodyguard. The Colonel is quoted as saying, “You don’t need to be afraid of me, you need to be afraid of her.” She is now the President of OC Cultural Pride and an advocate for Military women in pursuit of holistic healing.

Veteran Barbara Barron being presented certificates from (left to right) President of the Rotary Club of Hemet Delida Jaafar, Hemet City Councilwoman Linda Krupa, Representative from State Senator Bogh’s office William Boyd and State Senator Roth’s office Representative, Altie Holcomb.

The last but not least honoree was Arlene Jackson. She is the founder and the CEO of Restoring Hope Community Services in Perris and for more than 16 years has been caring for Veterans.  She created a 14 bed shelter for homeless Veterans on her own and if you ask anyone who knows her will tell you she is unstoppable.  

The honorees were personally handed certificates and acknowledged by:  Hemet City Councilwoman, Linda Krupa; State Senator Roth’s office Representative, Altie Holcomb; State Senator Ochoa Bogh’s Office Representative, William Boyd; Delida Jaafar, the President of Hemet Rotary and Michael McGuinness of Veterans Circle of Friends.

Veteran Dr. Stephanie Bruce with her certificates and (left to right) Hemet City Councilwoman Linda Krupa, Representative from State Senator Bogh’s office William Boyd, State Senator Roth’s office Representative, Altie Holcomb and MC Virginia Blumenthal.

In addition certificates were sent in and presented from U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, Congressman Raul Ruiz, Congressman Mark Takano, County Supervisor Yxtian Gutierrez and the City of San Jacinto.

Jackie Wayman said, “I am so happy I am going to tell my family all about this because no one has ever done this before. I have never been acknowledged before.”

Theresa Seaton had tears in her eyes and said, “I had such a wonderful time and I hope I can sleep after this.”

Ramonita Cruz’ daughter was in the audience beaming with pride when her mother was honored.  

At the end of the ceremony Martha Sylvia Zaragoza went around to each honoree giving them a special beaded keep sake to personally thank them.

Front Row: (left to right) Veteran Barbara Barron, Hemet City Councilwoman Linda Krupa, Veteran Theresa Seaton, and MC Virginia Blumenthal. Second Row: (left to right) Michael McGuinness of Veterans Circle of Friends, Representative from State Senator Bogh’s office William Boyd, President of the Rotary Club of Hemet Delida Jaafar, Veteran Ramonita Cruz, Veteran Jackie Wayman, Veteran supporter Arlene Jackson, Veteran Dr. Stephanie Bruce, Veteran supporter Martha Sylvia Zaragoza, the Honorable Mark Johnson, State Senator Roth’s office Representative, Altie Holcomb.

Overall, the reaction from the audience (which included men and women veterans) was a stirring of pride as all these Veterans felt truly acknowledged for having served to keep our country free.

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