×

Recognizing our women veterans: Amherst honors medic who served in the Women Army Corps

  • A hat belonging to John O'Neil at the Amherst Veterans day breakfast Nov. 11, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Guest speaker Shawn Parent addresses the Veterans Day breakfast in Amherst on Friday at the Bangs Center in Amherst as town Veterans Agent Steve Connor and state ep. Mindy Domb listen. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Guest speaker Shawn Parent, speaks at the Veterans day breakfast in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Neita Marshman, who served during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953 in the U.S. Army, and guest speaker Shawn Parent, also an Army veteran, meet at the Veterans Day breakfast at the Bangs Center in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Neita Marshman, who served during the Korean war from 1951 to 1953 in the US army, and guest speaker Shawn Parent, salute each other at the veterans day breakfast held at the Bangs center in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Neita Marshman, who served during the Korean war from 1951 to 1953 in the US army at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, listens as guest speaker Shawn Parent, speaks at the Veterans day breakfast in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Neita Marshman, who served during the Korean war from 1951 to 1953 in the US army, and guest speaker Shawn Parent, meet at the veterans day breakfast held at the Bangs center in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



Staff Writer
Monday, November 21, 2022

AMHERST — Shawn Parent served as a specialist-4 medic in the U.S. Army for three years in the 1970s, but like many female veterans has often felt invisible since her time serving the country.

Whether a female veteran is questioned for using a parking space reserved for a military veteran or just isn’t given the thanks and appreciation often directed toward male veterans, Parent hopes that attitudes can change and there can be more understanding of the important role women have in the military.

“People should know that our resolve is as great as the men who came before us, and that victory in our hearts is just as important,” Parent said as she gave the keynote address at the Veterans Day breakfast at the Bangs Community Center Friday morning.

Parent, an Amherst resident who served in the Women Army Corps, said people should know that 74,592 women are on active duty in the Army, but that some people still don’t understand they have the same obligation to protect American freedoms. Even she would often overlook her own service.

“It took me years to recognize that I’m a veteran,” Parent said.

Four days after Parent graduated high school in 1974, she was at basic training in Alabama where, as a person of color, she encountered racism and prejudice that she said her mother had shielded her from while growing up. But she overcame the challenges, becoming one of the first six women to go into the MedEvac unit. Her career ended when she was honorably discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Any difficulties she had then have made for a better life now. “It made me a stronger and better person,” Parent said.

As veterans and guests, including town officials, enjoyed the breakfast, Council President Lynn Griesemer thanked all the veterans for their service and the families who stand by them.

State Rep. Mindy Domb spoke about her appreciation for advocacy by veterans that has led to efforts by the Legislature to help them, including the passage of the bond bill that will ensure a new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home is built and the creation of a secretary of Veterans Affairs who will report to the governor weekly.

Veterans Agent Steve Connor said it was right for the state to prioritize the soldiers’ home following the outbreak of COVID that killed 76 residents in 2020.

“It’s a personal thing,” Connor said. “I helped four of the veterans who passed away.”

Flagpole ceremony

The breakfast was followed by a brief ceremony at the flagpole on the North Common in front of Town Hall, though the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, a moment of silence and the playing of the national anthem competed with bells ringing and noise being made at the nearby Grace Episcopal Church, where local climate activists staged a monthly demonstration.

Like the first Veterans Day breakfast held in 2019 — and canceled the past two years due to COVID — the meal was prepared by eight students from Smith Vocational and Agricultural School in Northampton, most of whom are members of the junior chefs club advised by Erik Fawell.

One of the students volunteering was freshman Phoebie Perez of South Hadley, who said she is considering a career as a medical technician in either the Coast Guard or the Navy.

“I’m interested in community service and talking to people here,” Perez said.

Other volunteers included University of Massachusetts students from both the swimming and diving and softball teams. They greeted and then served food to the veterans.

Members of the UMass Amherst ROTC program, known as the Minuteman Battalion and under the supervision of Major Anthony Ortega, handed out goodie bags. Ortega, who served in Iraq, said it was a pleasure to have four of his 50 members sit alongside veterans.

“These will be your future leaders in the U.S. Army,” Ortega said.

“I think it’s great,” said Tim Marsicano of Norwell, a freshman at UMass who is training so, upon graduation, he could be on active duty in the National Guard or in the reserves. “This definitely gives us a chance to honor people who have paved the way for us,” he said.

Neita Marshman served in the U.S. Army out of Walter Reed, where she assisted nurses helping the wounded during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953.

“It’s amazing,” Marshman said of the breakfast recognition, as she began enjoying the meal and wore her uniform.

After hearing that Parent, too, had been at Walter Reed, Marshman greeted her and thanked her for her service.