Honoring Our Fallen Women Marines

Honoring Our Fallen

Women Marines Association Members March in 2019 National Memorial Day Parade

By Virginia Bueno

To pay tribute to all who have served and sacrificed in service for our nation, nearly 30 Women Marines Association members, representing six states and the District of Columbia, marched in the National Memorial Day Parade, held in Washington D.C., June 27.

The parade is the nation’s largest Memorial Day event, honoring the memory of servicemen and women who died in service to America. Organized by the American Veterans Center & World War II Veterans Committee, the parade celebrated its 14th year.

Marching in sweltering heat down Constitution Avenue, WMA members represented the states of Tennessee, West Virginia, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Washington. WMA President Rhonda Amtower served as one of the parade marchers and unofficial photographer.

The WMA’s presence in this year’s parade was coordinated by Tricia Byrne, past national public relations officer, and past president of VA-1.  Byrne has unflaggingly arranged for WMA’s participation in the Memorial Day parade for a number of years.

“After the parade two participants told me they ‘were moved to tears’ as they walked down Constitution Avenue.  It’s an honor to walk down Constitution Avenue with fellow Marines honoring sister and all fallen Marines and veterans,” Byrne said. 

WMA participants paid special tribute to 10 women Marines who lost their lives the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Those fallen include Sergeant Jeannette L. Winters, 25, killed in a KC-130 crash in Pakistan mountains, Jan. 9, 2002; Lance Corporal Holly Charette, 21, and Cpl. Ramona Valdez, 20, both killed in an attack on truck convoy in Fallujah, June 23, 2005; Lance Corporal Juana Navarro Arellano, 24, who died of wounds received in Iraq, April 8 , 2006; Major Megan McClung, 34, killed as a result of an improvised explosive device (IED) attack near Ramadi in the Anbar province, Iraq, Dec. 6, 2006; Corporal Jennifer M. Parcell, 20, who died at the hands of female suicide bomber at a checkpoint in Anbar province, Iraq, Feb. 7, 2007; Captain Jennifer J. Harris, 28, who died when her helicopter crashed due to enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq, Feb. 7, 2007; Lance Corporal Casey Casanova, 22, who died as a result of an IED attack in Iraq, May 2, 2008; Lance Corporal Stacy Ann Dryden, 22, who perished from a non-combat related incident at al-Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 19, 2008; and Sergeant Camella M. Steedley, 31, non-combat related, Oct. 3, 2012.

Pat Greis Summers says she “proudly” participated in this year’s parade and was honored to march. “I first marched very proudly in my small hometown Memorial Day parade as a Brownie Girl Scout. As a retired Marine, I will continue to march in our nation’s largest Memorial Day Parade in honor of the Marines and other servicemembers I knew, as well as for those I never met because they gave up their lives so every American can live free.”

Summers also said she was grateful WMA chose to make a banner with pictures and the names of the female Marines who gave their lives in the war on terror. “There are still many citizens who do not know women make up 8 percent of our active duty force,” she noted.

Among the celebrities participating in this year’s parade were actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna along with Miss American 2019 Nia Franklin and celebrity chef and veteran Robert Irvine. The parade was reviewed by service chiefs of each of the branches of the military. 
The parade was nationally on syndicated stations across the county to approximately to 1,500,000 television viewers, and aired live to American troops around the world on American Forces Network.

“By walking in the parade WMA not only honored all fallen vets and our fallen sister Marines, but our members reminded our wonderful country that women serve and serve with honor and distinction in the Marine Corps and all branches of the military. I say I love the parade but I equally loved the time spent in the company of my sister Marines,” Byrne noted.        

Those interested in participating in the 2020 National Memorial Day Parade are encouraged to contact Virginia Bueno at virginiabueno@me.com.

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