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Letter: Honor Veterans — All of Them

To the Editor:

In 2011, I sent the Valley News a letter in which I identified myself as a veteran and which I signed with my full name. When a Valley News employee telephoned to verify authorship, she asked for “Mr. Cattabriga.” “I think,” I said, “that you want me. I’m Mrs. Cattabriga.” “No,” she said, “I want Mr. Cattabriga, the veteran who wrote to the Forum.” I informed her that I, not my husband, had written the letter.

She was not alone in making this faulty assumption. People forget or don’t realize that women can be veterans, too. Not long ago, at a gas station, a woman eyed the veteran’s license plate on my car, approached, and thanked my husband for his service. The woman’s intentions were good, but her presumption was incorrect, because my husband is not a veteran. When I once submitted a job application on which I’d checked the box marked “Veteran,” the interviewer handed it back to me, noting that I’d checked the wrong box.

I frequently write to elected officials regarding legislation affecting veterans. A former senator from New Hampshire faithfully responded to my letters, but persisted in addressing me as “Mr. Cattabriga.” I sent a letter reminding him that some veterans are women, noting that I knew this to be so because I am one. I received an effusive response declaring that the senator not only was aware that women can be veterans, but that he wholeheartedly supported them. The envelope and salutation were addressed, yet again, to “Mr. Cattabriga.”

During a production of South Pacific at the Lebanon Opera House, a man behind me loudly sneered that the role of Ensign Nellie Forbush was “fake, because women didn’t serve in World War II.” Correction, sir: Women have served officially in this country’s armed forces since the Army Nurse Corps was established in 1901; the Navy Nurse Corps was established in 1908. And historical records show that women have served unofficially in various capacities — including combat — in every war that our country has fought. So, on Veterans Day — and every day — please honor all veterans, including we women who have served.

Gioia Grasso Cattabriga

West Lebanon