People across the country are honoring veterans for their service to the country this weekend during the Memorial Day holiday, and Cherokee County veterans chose to honor women in the military during a ceremony at the Tahlequah City Cemetery.
Judy Ferguson and Katrina Fisher, two female vets, shared some of their experiences with members of the Cherokee County Veterans Council and their families during the event.
Ferguson’s family military history started with her great-great-grandfather.
“He fought when we battled to gain our independence from Mexico,” she said. “He also fought in the Civil War.”
Ferguson’s father fought in World War II. She recalls going to Veterans of Foreign Wars events in her early childhood and was helping care for veterans when she was 15.
When she was entering the military, she was told she would be put in communications.
“I told them I could shoot,” Ferguson, a Vietnam-era veteran, said. “I wanted to be in the infantry.”
She said she was told women couldn’t be in the infantry because they would be considered a distraction to the male soldiers. She didn’t initially understand that thought.
“I started to understand when I saw the women putting on camouflage like it was make-up,” she said.
She said military personnel are taught in their basic training and Advanced Individual Training to honor the uniform, the American flag and to lay down their lives for their country, if necessary.
Fisher, a Nebraska native, served in Iraq during her time in the military. Her father is also a veteran.
“I never heard him complain about the time it took to make the uniform look perfect or about putting the uniform on,” she said. “He became my hero.”
Fisher’s mother encouraged her and her sisters to be unique. She said the military taught her honor, discipline and other life skills. Her time in Iraq allowed her to work with some Iraqi natives, and she told of a time she met a young girl and her father.
Fisher said she initially had to wear sunglasses to hide her face and had to pull her hair up so tight that it didn’t show under her helmet. The Iraqi girl kept walking close to her and staring, but would be taken away by her father.
She was eventually able to remove the sunglasses and helmet and speak to the girl and her father through a translator. She said the father told his daughter that she could become strong and brave like Fisher.
“He and my mother had something in common,” Fisher, who was in Iraq from 2006-’07, said referring back to her mother’s encouraging words.
Both women urged those present to look for opportunities to reach out.
“You don’t have to wear a uniform to serve this great nation,” Ferguson said.
The ceremony also featured Aaron Estes, who was part of a group serving in Afghanistan.
Estes, who walked to the microphone with the aid of a cane due to his injuries, asked for a moment of silence for some of his fellow soldiers who were killed in action in Afghanistan.
Mayor Jason Nichols was on hand to read a proclamation for the event that also featured the playing of taps and bagpipes, as well as a military salute. The Tahlequah High School JROTC, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Michael Hunt presented the colors.
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