Female vets
By Kathryn Menue
BELVIDERE – On Friday, March 25, the Boone County Veterans Assistance Commission (BCVAC) held a luncheon for the area female veterans.
“We think of veterans as men, and women as the grieving wives,” Kathy Reed of BCVAC said. However, that’s not always the case. “We’re trying to raise more awareness for female veterans.”
Reed, an Army veteran herself, said that it is hard to get women to identify as a veteran, especially the younger women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, who are busy juggling their work and their families.
To help recognize the women of service, Reed constructed the female veterans luncheon where area female servicewomen along with their families could come together to enjoy coffee, cake, ice cream, punch, stories, and a sense of connecting with fellow female veterans.
Reed said that they came up with the idea to honor female veterans back in January for Women’s History Month. They thought some of the most important women in America’s history are the women who have served our country. Thus, Reed and the BCVAC created the honorary luncheon for the female veterans.
Several servicewomen attended the luncheon, including Mary Nicholls.
Nicholls served in the Army during the Vietnam War from April 1968 to December 1969. She was stationed at Long Binh Army Post, 20 miles north of Saigon, Vietnam. She worked as for the Army Chief of Staff for Communications-Electronics at the U.S. Vietnam Headquarters.
During her deployment, Nicholls said she worked long days, seven days a week, with an occasional trip to Saigon as a break.
Nicholls, along with the other men and women serving at the U.S. Vietnam Headquarters, would receive little rest for they would “get rocketed pretty much every night.” One time while Nicholls was stationed in Vietnam, the enemy reached the perimeter.
However, Nicholls said “it wasn’t all bad,” since she made friends through the service.
“I have good friends I’ve kept in touch with,” Nicholls said. “They say ‘friends you make in war are friends you keep forever’ and that’s very true.”
Also in attendance was Nancy Clark who served in the Army for 20 years from 1970 to 1990.
Originally from Rockford, Clark served three tours in Germany and two years in Korea.
“I loved it,” Clark said. “I absolutely loved it.”
Clark also served as one of the first of three female Army recruiters, taught Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Southern Maine-Gorham, Maine, and was on Reserve Component duty training the National Guard and Army Reserves.
Clark married a veteran in 1973 and had one daughter.
She is now involved in four to five veterans’ groups, which she volunteers for seven days a week.
Unfortunately, Clark lost her husband in May 2015 after 43 years of marriage.
However, her loss only rejuvenated her volunteer efforts. She wants every veteran, especially female veterans to have a place to turn to when they’re in need.
Therefore, Clark along with her colleague Melody Vrocato started SHEVETS: Sharing Heroic Endeavors, Values, Ethics, Together in Sisterhood.
Vrocato helped create this organization after her veteran husband died of Agent Orange poisoning in July 2015.
“There is a need for it [SHEVETS],” Vrocato said.
Vrocato is a Marine veteran who served from 1968 through 1969 at Cherry Point, NC in Air Freight Operations. After marrying her husband she met in the Marine Corps, she worked for 28 years at the Rockford Airport in Air Freight for UPS.
Vrocato dedicates her time to veteran volunteer services, especially events concerning Agent Orange. She is also highly dedicated to the community, playing Mrs. Claus for Hometown Christmas in Belvidere.
The BCVAC continuously dedicates its services to veterans in need of assistance and events such as the female veterans’ luncheon.
The community can help support the BCVAC by visiting Culver’s Restaurant in Belvidere on Monday, April 4 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., where 10 percent of the night’s proceeds will be donated to the BCVAC.

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