Tyler celebrates first Women Veteran's Day

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A study released by the Department of Veteran's Affairs shows that Texas is home to more female veterans than any other state.

It's one of many reasons the Texas legislature declared June 12 as Women Veterans Day.

"It is the best thing I've ever done for my life," U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Heather Williams said.

On June 12, 1948, the Woman's Armed Services Integration Act was signed into law by President Harry Truman. The law allowed women to serve as full members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Since then, thousands of women have volunteered to serve our country.

"It became a way of life for me, and it's been one of the most liberating, and probably beneficial, things I've ever done in my life," Williams said.

But former Women's Army Corp and U.S. Army veteran Betty Johnson says it took some time for the country to really accept women in the military.

"Being out in the pubic in uniform, people would say, 'girl are you in the...are you a soldier?'" Johnson said. "'Are you in the military?"

"The Invisible Soldier" is a term often used for the female soldier, but Texas legislature is trying to honor those women, beginning by signing into law Women Veteran's Day in 2017, a day where no matter what branch you're in, you feel the camaraderie.

"We have, you know, the different branches, you have the Army, the Air Force, Navy, Marines," U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Lorhonda Hamilton said. "And we all have our different purposes, but we all have that one common goal, you know, to protect and serve."

Joining other cities around the state, the East Texas Veteran's Community Council hosted a ceremony in their honor, giving them a chance to meet more of their sisters in service.

"I think it's wonderful," Hamilton said. "I think it's awesome, and I think it's long past due."

But Johnson says it's about so much more than just the sister in arms.

"It's recognizing the effort that all of us, men and women both, have made," Johnson said. "The efforts we have all made to our country."

There are over 180,000 veterans in the state of Texas, many who live right here in East Texas.

If you are a veteran in Tyler looking for help, visit the Smith County Veterans Service Center for assistance.

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