‘We’ve come a long way’: Jacksonville honors women veterans during recognition week

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville will be celebrating and recognizing women veterans this week.

Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville’s Military Affairs and Veterans Department, and Northeast Florida Women Veterans kicked off the week with a ceremony at City Hall on Monday.

Curry read a proclamation declaring June 4-10 Women Veterans Recognition Week, acknowledging that it was the last proclamation he would make as the city’s mayor.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege,” Curry said. His administration has been working on transitioning power to incoming Mayor-elect Donna Deegan.

The week leads up to the 75th Anniversary of the Women’s Integration Act, the legislation that gave women the right to serve in the military.

Deloris Quaranta, the president and CEO of the Northeast Florida Women Veterans chapter, couldn’t be prouder.

Historical women's military uniforms are on display in the City Hall atrium (WJXT)

“We’ve come a long way. I feel really great because I can see the fruits of our labor,” Quaranta said.

Quaranta served in the U.S. Air Force from 1978 to 1998, when rules for women in the military were more restrictive. She said a monumental moment that signified change for her was when she was allowed to rock a natural hairstyle.

“I think when they allowed me to put braids in my hair, believe it or not because we could not do that as African Americans. It had to be pulled back or something other than that,” Quaranta said.

Ami Ritter, who served in the U.S. Army for six years, also remembers what it was like to serve at a time when women had less freedom.

“I served in the late 90s beginning of the early 2000s where not all branches were open to female soldiers. So, for me being the active-duty MOS 14 Tango is one of the only combat MOS’ that I could go on to at that time when I joined,” Ritter said.

It wasn’t until 2015 that the Department of Defense opened all combat jobs to women.

Historical women's military uniforms are on display in the City Hall atrium (WJXT)

Ritter said she is proud of the progress made since she served but that more work still needs to be done.

According to the Department of Labor, women make up 10% of the veteran community.

“This gives us the opportunity to toot our own horn in a way and say, ‘Yup we’re here. This is what we’ve done, just as the men have done, if not done it better,’” Ritter said.

Northeast Florida Women Veterans, Inc. is hosting ceremonies and activities throughout the week, including providing a display of uniforms in the City Hall Atrium.

Women Veterans Week of Recognition Events

Monday, June 5:

Opening Ceremony/Proclamation from 10-11 a.m., at City Hall

Paint & Sip from 6-9 p.m. at Legacy Ale Works at 14965 Old St. Augustine Rd, Suite 129-130 (Space is limited.)

Tuesday, June 6:

Lunch & Learn “Finding Balance up the Ladder” from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Dr. (Space is limited.)

Wednesday, June 7:

Women, Wealth & Wine from 5-8 p.m., at Cooper’s Hawk, 4850 Big Island Dr. (Space is limited.)

Thursday, June 8:

Mental Health Summit for Mental Health Professionals & Resource Providers from 8-11:30 a.m. at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena

Friday, June 9:

Women’s VA Health Fair for Attendees from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the VA Jefferson Clinic at 1536 N Jefferson Street (2nd floor)

Saturday, June 10:

Women Veterans Recognition Gala from 6 -10 p.m., at the Southbank Hotel at Jacksonville Riverwalk

About the Author:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.