On Nov. 2, 1997, Col May died peacefully in her sleep at the Menlo Park, CA, nursing home where she had resided for many years. She was 102 years old and had not been ill prior to her death.
Gerry May was a member of the first WAAC Officer Candidate School in 1942. She worked hard to overcome the chauvinism common in the Services at that time, and she helped write the Integration Act which gave women the opportunity to serve as fully recognized military members.
In 1948 Col. May was appointed first Director of the Women in the Air Force. At that time, there were only 168 women officers and 1,433 enlisted women in the Air Force. After her tenure as Director, she resigned and continued her career in Civil Service until her retirement.
Col. May had knew that AFWOA had established a chair in her honor in the WIMSA Memorial Auditorium, and she was very pleased and somewhat humbled by the honor. General Jeanne Holm has asked that AFWOA members who have pictures, letters and other artifacts concerning Gerry May consider donating them to WIMSA through AFWOA channels. Please email AFWOA for details.
On October 17, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial was dedicated, and what a grand time it was! The festivities started on Thursday night with a gala at the D.C. Armory with a gourment meal and an impressive, flaming dessert. Guest speakers included Tipper Gore and Shelia Widnall, outgoing Secretary ofthe Air Force. Celebrity guests were Loretta Switt and Connie Stevens.
Friday was a luncheon with entertainment by singers from the Air Force Band; they wore period costumes and sang songs from many older eras. That evening, the Reunion at the Armory included the unveiling of the new USPS stamp for Women in the Military.
After an AFWOA breakfast on Saturday morning, the dedication was held at Arlington Cemetery. Over 30,000 veterans and friends jammed the circle for this momentous event. Fortunately, the clouds did NOT loose their rain on us! That evening, there was acandle light march followed by a red, white and blue fireworks display.
Sunday morning, charter members were invited to visit the Memorial and were inpressed with the interior and its many displays.
Everyone who attended this important event has commented on what a wonderful and moving experience it was. For those who were not able to be there, plan to visit the Memorial if you are in Washington in the future.
Don't know what to do with some of your military artifacts? WIMSA is looking for items for their permanent collection. There is a need for American military history from all periods for the Exhibit Gallery. Pre-WWI items are particularly needed, as are articles and documents which depict work situations as well as all prisoner of war experiences.
Alexis M. Herman, Secretary of Labor, is overseeing the Veteran's Employment and Training Service. Her goal is to preserve the rights and benefits that have been earned by veterans. She is committed to ensuring that veterans have the skills to keep up with the changing technologies of the global economy in the new century.
Air Force issues are on the web at http://www.issues.af.mil . You'll find everything from benefits to hot issues to future plans.
Washington State has a new national cemetery. Located near Kent, it was dedicated on September 26 and is one of the 114 in 38 states. Many of the VA's national cemeteries have reached their capacity for casketed burials and can only accept cremation internments. Grave sites may not be reserved but are arranged at the time of need. In 1996, over 397,000 headstones and markers were provided by the government. Not a pleasant issue, but one which you may want to think about.
It's been an expensive year for all of us with the WIMSA dedication, the Colonel May Chair, and our regular AFWOA activities/newsletters. We are making every effort to conserve our limited funds by cutting where we can, but must ask foryour continued support. The issues of dues has been raised from time to time and rejected for several reasons, including a loss of our tax-exempt status. Laura has asked all of us to consider putting AFWOA on our regular donation list. Anything helps - it all adds up and helps us keep you informed. Thank you in advance for your support!