Recognizing military women

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Lt. Jessica Danluck spoke about her recent combat mission in Afghanistan. Photo by: Heather O'Quinn/TMT

The Malibu chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution hosted a luncheon to honor female Armed Forces officers. Three local students were also recognized for their academic achievements.

By Troy Dove/Special to The Malibu Times

Military service women, World War II veterans and distinguished guests gathered Saturday morning at the Malibu Riding and Tennis Club to pay tribute to women in the military. The annual luncheon, in its eighth year, was co-hosted by the Malibu Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Malibu Nature Preserve.

Malibu DAR Regent Joan Frye said that for many years service women who served their country during wartime were not acknowledged as veterans. She added that it was only recently that women veterans have begun to receive the recognition they deserve.

With the annual luncheon Malibu DAR hopes to help military service women gain recognition for the roles they played in the Armed Forces throughout American history. The luncheon brought together veterans from all areas of service since World War II and from various DAR chapters around the area.

Three female guest speakers, Navy officers Capt. Paz B. Gomez, Lt. Jessica Danluck and Lt. Jill Dougherty, retold personal experiences of their service in the military and urged the young people in attendance to consider joining the Armed Forces for at least a portion of their lives.

“The military was one of the ones [employers] who were forthcoming as far as stepping out and opening things to women; allowing us to become pilots, doctors and engineers,” Gomez said. “Being a woman doesn’t hinder your ability to progress in the military.”

She added, “Whether or not you served for 14 months or 30 years, it is something that never escapes you.”

The other officers agreed with Gomez, saying that their time in the military was “the best time of their lives.”

This attitude was shared by the many women veterans in attendance who also got a chance to speak of their military experiences.

Ethel Naffah, who is turning 91 this month, served as a nurse in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Naffah said it was the most interesting time of her life. “I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”

After serving in the war, Naffah joined the Air Force as a flight nurse in 1948. She said she had the opportunity to fly with her patients all over the world.

Naffah is the only female veteran mentioned in a book by Malibu resident and Vietnam War veteran Jerry Jackson called “Remembering Stories from the WWII Pacific.” Jackson attended the Malibu DAR event. His book will be released later this year.

“I was glad to be a part of it,” said veteran Eileen Worden of her own World War II experience. Worden was a WASP, Women’s Airforce Service Personnel, during the war and was responsible for testing aircraft and ferrying planes between bases.

“We did the jobs that freed the pilots so they could go overseas,” Worden said. “There were 25,000 women that applied for the job; they only took a little over 2,000.”

She added, “I always felt like I did do what I could do, and what I wanted to do.”

During World War II, the government created many separate branches of service for women in the military. The largest of them was the WAVES, Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service.

The WAVES filled a variety of positions throughout the war and numbered more than 80,000 active service women by the war’s end.

Josette Wingo, author of “Mother was a Gunner’s Mate: World War II in the Waves,” was a WAVE during the war. She said she was responsible for “teaching sailors to shoot down aircraft.”

Women were not allowed to be involved in combat. But Wingo said that did not mean they felt like they were not contributing to the war effort.

“We always felt that even though we were onshore, we were part of the war,” she said.

Also at the Malibu DAR event, three local students were recognized for their academic and writing accomplishments.

The Good Citizenship Award went to Malibu High School senior Martin Salas for his high achievement at school and his work within the community.

The American History Essay Contest winner was Malibu Middle School eighth-grader Nicole Lisson.

“The judges were especially impressed with Nicole Lisson’s writing skills and her vivid descriptions seen through the eyes of Sacagawea,” Malibu DAR Regent Frye said.

Frye’s son, Harrison, won first place in the Christopher Columbus Essay contest, which asked students to explore the reasons why Columbus should be considered a hero.

Harrison won first place not only locally with his essay, titled “Christopher Columbus Imperfect Hero,” but also at the state level. Harrison won $350. His essay is now entered in the national contest.