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Celebrating Women's History Month

March 25, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

Women in the U.S. have been fighting for their country since the Revolutionary War, but their contributions were often overlooked.

According to the Center for Women Veterans, Department of Veteran Affairs, women served in the U.S. military illegally, disguised as men, or as contractors prior to 1901 when the Army Nurse Corps was established. In 1908 the Navy Nurse Corps followed.

As of July 2000, there are 24 million veterans in the U.S. and 1.2 million are women, according to the center. California has the highest number of female veterans at 151,371.

Women veterans are all volunteers. Only men are drafted.

The county Board of Supervisors honored military women and proclaimed last week Women's Military History Week.

Olivia Ordona, 45, received the honor from the board on behalf of female veterans in Imperial County.

Ordona, of El Centro, is a retired Naval veteran who served during the Persian Gulf War.


"I was lucky. I was on a repair ship in the Persian Gulf doing administrative work. I was on the outskirts of the action," she said.

She served in the Navy during the infamous 1991 Tailhook scandal where investigations showed serious misconduct by officers at Tailhook's annual conventions.

Ordona said she reserved judgment on Tailhook until after the investigations but once the facts were out, she wasn't surprised.

She said she didn't feel any discrimination personally, but she knows some women did.

"I had one problem with a guy who didn't like taking orders from a female. I told him to get over it," she said.

Ordona, born in Mexicali and raised in El Centro, was assigned to the USS McKee, then based out of Point Loma, but now decommissioned. She served in the Navy for 20 years and retired in 1998.

"When we went to war, I got scared — what if something should happen — but I was also ready to do whatever it takes," Ordona said.

She said her family worried more about her safety than she did.

While she is retired, Ordona said she needs to stay in the Navy's fleet reserve until 2008 to get her official retirement.

"I could be called to duty if they needed me," she said. "After the Sept. 11 attacks, I thought about going back. If they recalled me, I would be ready to go."

Ordona said she was happy to see the renewed patriotism in the country after Sept. 11.

"I was always proud of my country, but now I see other people feeling it," she said.

And now other people are recognizing the contributions of women such as Ordona, women who served their country without ever being asked.

March is women's history month.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

For more info on the Internet:

Department of Defense, National Women's History Month

The Center for Women's Veterans

Captain Barbara A. Wilson, USAF (Ret)

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles