By MC3 Robyn Melvin

Navy Public Affairs Support
Element Southeast

Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently proclaimed the third week in March as Female Veterans Recognition Week.  The request for the proclamation was spearheaded by Deloris Quartanta, Northeast Florida Women Veterans Association CEO and president. 

Quartanta is an Air Force veteran who made it her mission to help other female veterans in and around Jacksonville through her organization.   

"The main goal of the organization is to be an advocate, promote community awareness, and provide direct services," said Quartanta. "Many women feel forgotten or disregarded. We want to dispel that notion."

For the past four years, Quartanta and the association have held a week of events centered around female veterans. These events include classes on how to start your own business and what services are offered by the Veterans Administration (VA).

"Women veterans don't always know all the VA benefits they are eligible for," said Quartanta.

"They don't know what medical conditions are service-connected. This conference is not only important for veterans, but for women who will soon exit the military."

The week of events concluded with a gala honoring women veterans. This year's guest speaker was Jennifer Carroll, former Florida lieutenant governor and a retired Navy veteran who has helped raise millions of dollars for veteran causes and affairs. According to Carroll, women who have served in the military often face challenges gaining mutual respect from their male counterparts, but she reminded the guests not to get discouraged. 

"Do not be afraid to speak up," said Carroll. "When you do speak up and speak out, it may or may not benefit you, but for those who will be coming behind you, you will be paving the way for them."

During the gala, 99-year-old Hattie Ulmer and other World War II female service members, along with Korean War and Vietnam Conflict female veterans were honored for their service. 

"The role these trailblazers played during war and peacetime was the backbone of a lot of different eras," said Suzette Cudjoe-Hodge Johnson, a board member of the association. "It's about time that they are recognized."

The gala concluded with an award ceremony and auction where all of the proceeds go to support the Northeast Florida Women Veterans Association.

"The importance of events like this is honoring those who continue to serve even after their service date has ended," said attendee Lisa Wiggs, a Navy retiree. "Just to see people continue to be of service without any motivation other than wanting to help those who need it most."

To learn more, visit : http://www.womenveteransresources.org.