On March 22nd at 1pm, the Veterans’ Museum will host its 4th annual luncheon in tandem with the Women’s History Month commemorations which occur all across America throughout the month of March. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.” Every year, the Veterans’ Museum picks a particular military campaign as its emphasis, and this year is honoring several women who served during the Vietnam War Era. Without a doubt, the women who chose to serve during a time of such hostilities at home deserve special recognition.
This year’s honorees are Dr. Deborah Barnhart, Linda Blankenship, Maria Taylor, and Edith Stewart. A brief bio of each woman appears below. Dr. Barnhart will also serve as our keynote speaker.
Dr. Barnhart became the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in December 2010. The Center is the official Visitor Information Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian, and the showcase for Redstone Arsenal and defense programs, including energy. Home to the world renowned U.S. Space Camp®, U.S. Space Academy®, Aviation Challenge®, and Robotics Camp, the Center is Alabama’s leading tourist attraction.
Dr. Barnhart’s career spans three decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy Captain (0-6), she was one of the first ten women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26 year career.
Linda Blankenship of Rogersville, Alabama joined the Women’s Army Corps, graduating basic training at FT. McClellan, Alabama, in 1973. She finished the Combat Medic Course and the Physical Therapy Specialist Course at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Linda served during the Vietnam Era, caring for soldiers returning from the conflict. Linda treated soldiers who suffered from severe burns, amputated limbs, and other painful injuries which required long-term care. She currently serves as a Director-at-large of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Maria Taylor was born in Peru, and was not allowed to join the Peruvian Army so she came to America and joined ours! She retired in 2010 after 20 years as the International Programs Manager for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Huntsville. Her service took her to Afghanistan and Iraq, where she received several awards. She is also a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Hispanic Ministry at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, and an instructor with Learn To Read, Athens.
Edith Stewart, a native of Andalusia, AL, joined the Navy in 1963. She completed her Basic Training at Bainbridge, MD, and finished her Naval Photographic training at Pensacola, FL. She served there until 1967. She met her husband Harry in 1967 as well, which was during a time when WAVES were not encouraged to be married. After marrying and leaving the Navy, she worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency as a photographer, and then attended to her career as a stay at home mom. She and her husband live in Ardmore.
Please join us in honoring these women on March 22nd. The event always draws a good crowd, so be sure to come early so you have a seat. A delicious light luncheon will be served, and we look forward to seeing you there. The Alabama Veterans’ Museum and Archives is located at 100 Pryor Street, Athens.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner