DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It is a new day in Texas– and some would say it’s about time.

On the 70th anniversary of the day that women were officially allowed into the military, Texas became the first state in the nation to honor female veterans.

Texas Women Veterans Day celebrates the roughly 177,000 women veterans who call Texas home.

“When I think about how far we’ve come– and I’m glad I’m still alive to see it!” exclaimed Camilla Zimbal, U.S. Army Retired. Last year, Cmdr. Zimbal helped charter a Denton Chapter of Women Veterans of America.

The group provides support and what she calls a ‘safe place’ for gender specific challenges, such as military sexual assault.

“They know this is a safe place to come and they can talk about their stories, and they can talk about their troubles and they can get the help that they need and they have a sisterhood when they have post traumatic stress that they can turn to,” says Cmdr. Zimbal.

Texas Women Veterans Day is a way to bring the often silent service of female veterans into the spotlight. Women have always played a role in the nation’s military history– but, history is often harsh.

“I was not received well. They had to take me, I was there,” recalled Diane Fraser, USAF Retired, and a member of WVA #48, “but, I was mostly ignored.”

Ginger Simmson retired from the Army after serving more than two decades– in spite of comments like this: “I was told women don’t belong in the army,” recalled Simmson. “From my boss, the first two in fact.”

She says even her father tried to warn her away from military service. “He told me ‘no, you don’t want to join the service: only two kinds of women join the service, and I hope you never be either one’.”

So Simmson says she waited until she graduated from college, became a soldier, and served for 24 years.

The women veterans say the challenges of military service continued once they returned home.

“I was literally told to hide it, and I kept it secret for years,” says Cmdr. Zimball, her voice breaking. “It was so hard to come home and not be respected and to see the change today, we’re beginning to respect our women and honor our women.”

Gina Smith, a retired U.S. Marine says often when she tells strangers that she’s a Marine, they want to see ID. She’s thrilled to see Texas honor the service of its female veterans. “It is such an honor, really, to have a day that says, ‘we appreciate you’,” says Smith.

Joyce Anderson, USAFSS Retired, calls the new state observance, “Wonderful– because I don’t know how many times that I’ve walked down the street with my husband who is thanked for his service, and he has to say ‘she is a veteran also’.”

It is time, supporters say, for the silence to end– especially if the day allows them to send the message to other female veterans that they are not alone.

“I’m glad for the women that are coming in now,” adds Fraser. “If I could do it over, I’d do it again.”

 

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