A group of women veterans from Las Vegas joined the rest of Mesquite in honoring those who served in the 2016 Mesquite Veteran’s Day Parade. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Mesquite’s new Women’s History and Cultural Center is beginning its days by calling out to women veterans for their information.

The main mission of the WHCC, for starters, is to build a list of female veterans for several reasons.

The first reason comes from necessity, there is currently no resource list of female veterans and not many that are actively involved any of the veteran’s group activities. It’s a mystery, to most, exactly how many women veterans call Mesquite their home.

Retired Army Colonel Ann Barfield was one of the guest speakers during the Exchange Club’s 1000 Flags over Mesquite Veteran’s Day ceremonies. This year’s ceremony was dedicated to women veterans. Paul Benedict, Master of Ceremonies stands behind. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Jean Watkins, WHCC founder, is asking female veterans to come forward so she can build a list and celebrate those women who have sacrificed their time for the protection of our country.

Watkins also wants to find women who would qualify to serve as Grand Marshall for this year’s, and future, Mesquite Veterans Day Parades.

If you’re an honorably or medically discharged female veteran of the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, Watkins wants to hear from you.

Mesquite Veterans Day Parades have been a part of Mesquite since 1997, but only one time in the 21 years of the parade has there been a woman Grand Marshall; Watkins and her WHCC team want to see that change, as many of you might also.

The only woman to serve as the Grand Marshall in any of the Mesquite Veterans Day Parades was Anna Murphy way back in 2004.

Murphy was sworn into the Women’s Army Air corps in 1942 and after basic training was assigned to The First Allied Airborne Army; the only unit to have WACs in the combat zone. Her career in the Army Air Corps took her to Europe’s many countries until her return to the state in 1945 on the Queen Mary.

Murphy spent 30 years as a dental hygienist until she retired in 1978 and eventually moved to Mesquite in 1989. Murphy passed away in 2017, at the age of 99, in Mesquite but not before she was honored in the 2016 Veterans Day Parade with the distinction of being the oldest WWII woman veteran in town.

It’s stories like Murphy’s and yours that Watkins wants to highlight, not just for future parades, but in the WHCC as well. She wants others to be able to learn about the accomplishments and battles that other women fought and won to help inspire other women to empower themselves in the battle that has been raging since women fought for the right to vote; women’s equality.

Barbara Ellestad gave the opening speech for the 1000 Flags over Mesquite Veteran’s Day Ceremony. The 2016 1000 Flags ceremony was dedicated to women veterans. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Watkins has already approached Mayor Allan Litman, one of the parade’s organizers, about the idea of having a female Grand Marshall in this year’s Veterans Day Parade and he is open to the idea but also lacks any sort of substantial list of women veterans. He and Watkins put their heads together and, sadly, could only identify a handful which surprised them both because the Mayor is heavily involved in Veteran affairs in Mesquite.

Mesquite’s oldest WWII woman veteran, 98 year old Anna Murphy, is driven down Mesquite Blvd. by Deena Neal in the 2016 Mesquite Veteran’s Day Parade. Murphy will be 99 years old in Dec. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Watkins wants to hand him the list of possible woman candidates for the 2018 parade and time is of the essence; the organization is already somewhat underway.

The most important future parade year for Watkins and the WHCC is 2020; the 100 anniversary of the first battle won; the year women fought for and won the right to vote in America.

Watkins and others in the WHCC are planning some big things for the anniversary year and just one of them is having a female Grand Marshall in that parade, then hopefully alternating years in the future; but they need to know who you are.

Unlike Murphy, you don’t have to have seen battle to be considered, eligibility is simple; you have to be a veteran (honorably or medically discharged) and you have to reside in the Virgin Valley.

Watkins knows there are women out there who have powerful stories to tell, inspiring stories that she would like you to share with others, especially those of you who have served.

If you would like to share your story please contact Watkins at showgirls@rconnects.com.