Before the guest speakers told their stories, Founder and Executive Director of Northeast Florida Women Veterans (NFWV) Deloris Quaranta talked about her experience and problems in society.
Quaranta retired from the U.S. Air Force after serving twenty years. She said one problem in society today is the lack of conversation about women veterans. To combat this, she helped start women’s veterans recognition week five years ago.
“There are two unique needs of women veterans,” said Quaranta.
The first is to celebrate accomplishments, and the second is raising community awareness of issues veterans to face. Quaranta mentions homelessness as one of those issues.
Quaranta also talked about equal opportunity. She said, “The service available to veterans should be equal regardless of gender.”
Guest speaker and Korean War veteran, Virginia Wygonik, then talked about her experiences. Wygonik enlisted in 1952 when she was just 19.
“I became an adult that day,” Wygonik said. She joked that even though she is now 85, she is still “ready, willing, and able” to serve.
Tears came to her eyes when she spoke about struggles that stretched beyond gender. She told a story about a young black woman she befriended during her time serving, but just like the discrimination between men and women, there was racial discrimination that forever separated Wygonik from her friend.
She said, at first, she was also denied the chance to go to Korea, because the men who wanted to go were given priority, and the woman was used to take the place of the men.