Illinois' First All-Women Honor Flight Takes Off In October

Lisa Fielding
February 25, 2020 - 2:11 pm
Operation HerStory

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Women soldiers have been serving in the military since the Revolutionary War, but often times, their contributions are forgotten.

"We couldn't be more excited to recognize the service and sacrifice of our women veterans," said John Ptak, President, Honor Flight Chicago.

"Since our inception in 2008, Honor Flight Chicago has completed 95 flights bringing 8,728 senior war heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit the war memorials in their honor, but fewer of 200 of these veterans have been women though."

That will change on Oct. 7 when 100 female veterans from Illinois will board the first, all-women Honor Flight in Chicago.

"As we learn more about the reasons why women veterans have historically relinquished their rightful spots of honor to their male counterparts, we became increasingly convinced of the vital importance of getting Operation HerStory off the ground," Ptak said.

Operation HerStory is a milestone initiative dedicated to highlighting the vital contributions of women in the military, beginning with a first-in-the-state, all-female chartered flight to Washington, D.C., for senior women veterans to visit the national war memorials built in their honor.

Operation HerStory
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"The day will center on the camaraderie of sisters-in-arms," Ptak said.

Dr. Constance Edwards was a nurse in Vietnam, but she said when she returned home, she wasn't treated like a veteran.

"I was told that I was not a combat veteran, because I was a nurse. I was told I couldn't wear my uniform that I was issued in Vietnam, because it was only for Vietnam veterans. I was somewhere to 12 months," she laughed. "I even went back to Vietnam decades later to make sure it was the place I was." 

Operation HerStory
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

According to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, there are approximately 7,500 women veterans currently living in the state who served in the active duty military between 1940 and 1975. Among these, it’s estimated that fewer than 3 percent have to-date flown to Washington, D.C., with an Illinois Honor Flight hub.

"I did an article with the Daily Herald and mentioned there should be an all women's honor flight. Next thing I know it was the headline in the article. We found that there aren't a lot of women on those fights," said Ginny Narsete, Operation HerStory chairperson,Vietnam veteran.

"Isn't it time women come out of the shadows and become visible and accept honor and recognition?" Narsete said.

The all-expense-paid Operation HerStory flight day will include visits to landmarks that are of particular significance to women veterans, including the Women’s Memorial, WAC museum and Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

"I will be proud to travel with military veterans who paved the way for us, those who paved the way for women of color and paved the way for others who served in other conflicts," Edwards said.

Operation HerStory
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

The landmark flight is slated for Oct. 7, 2020, and open to any woman veteran who served on active duty in any branch of the military during WWII, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War, or between the years of 1940 and 1975. Applicants do not need to be combat veterans or to have served oversea.

"This trip is one day, but the experience will be life changing," Ptak said. 

Those interested in learning more or securing an Operation HerStory veteran flight application can visit www.OperationHerStory.org, email info@operationherstory.org, or call (513) 813-7808.