Honor Flight Kentucky makes history with state’s first all-women’s flight

This was the organization's first trip to Washington D.C. since before the pandemic in 2019

WASHINGTON D.C. (WTVQ) – Saturday was a monumental day for many lady veterans from all over the Commonwealth. Honor Flight Kentucky had its first flight since the pandemic and the organization’s first women’s only flight. It was a day to recognize these women for the sacrifices they made and the heroes they are.

The veterans, spanning from the Vietnam War all the way up to the War on Terror, were able to be celebrated and thanked while visiting memorials throughout Washington D.C. This year’s Honor Flight Kentucky was also the first that founders George Campbell and Phil Pittman weren’t alive to see, making it extra emotional for many crew involved.

Saturday’s women’s only flight was specially picked to fall that weekend. June 12th is Women’s Veterans Day, so the flight crew thought there would be no better time to honor our state’s incredible lady vets than this. Over 100 women flew to Washington D.C. for the day and every single one had a story worth hearing.

“Women can do anything men can do,” says Carolyn Furdek, a retired Captain from the U.S. Army.

These women’s battles didn’t just happen on the battlefield but in the ranks too. Fighting to be recognized as equal parts of our Armed Forces.

According to the department of defense, 16% of our Armed Forces are women. That’s 8 times the number it was in World War II. Representative Andy Barr says women are the fastest growing group in our military.

“My children thought it was real normal for women to wear combat boots,” says Missy Logan, Furdek’s mom and retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Army. “They thought that was real normal and I tried to explain that it wasn’t.”

Furdek is third generation female veteran. Furdek’s mom, Logan, and Furdek’s paternal grandmother were both nurses in the Army, her mom serving in the Vietnam era and her grandmother in World War II.

“I stand on the backs of lions,” says Furdek. “Obviously, I was inspired to serve by my mother and then have the legacy of my father’s mother, Mary Harris, and everything that they’ve done have paved the way for my generation and now future generations to do everything.”

Furdek says she wants little girls to see the military the way she did.

“A few days later she goes ‘so mom, are there any men in the Army?’,” says Logan.

“So I told all of my friends to bring their children and their grandchildren to the welcome home ceremony tonight and maybe some future generations can wonder the same,” says Furdek.

Marj Graves is a retired Captain from the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. She volunteered to serve in Vietnam after being on active duty for four years.

“I just felt that I needed to go over there and see if I could make a difference,” says Graves.

In 1972, just two weeks before Graves was set to go home, a large helicopter crashed and 34 soldiers died. Their bodies were brought to Graves’ hospital. She says they were bloodied and dismembered and says even decades later, she can still smell it on her hands.

“I was one of the body identifiers. So, we worked tirelessly trying to find wedding bands, or rings, or dog tags or anything to get the boys’ and the guys’ bodies back home,” says Graves.

For over 30 years, Graves says she didn’t say a word about the nightmare she experienced in Vietnam, not even to her husband a fellow Vietnam veteran.

“I think anybody who deals with trauma becomes a master at stuffing it away. Whether it’s sexual trauma, whatever type of trauma, and I was a master at it,” says Graves.

Graves says in 2005, she tried to commit suicide. Since then she says she’s taken what she learned to try and reach other veterans struggling with PTSD.

“We’re taught to be strong and brave and not let anybody see that vulnerable side,” says Graves. “But when you’ve experienced trauma, you are vulnerable even though on the surface nobody sees that.”

Graves says being surrounded by other military service members is healing in and of itself.

“Anytime I’m around other vets, man I understand them just like they understand me because we’re coming from like backgrounds,” says Graves. “This experience to be able to be around so many females that are veterans is just like icing on the birthday cake to me.”

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