Female veterans pampered, thanked

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RUMFORD — Female veterans were fed, pampered and thanked Saturday at the fifth annual Women Veterans Luncheon at American Legion Post 24.

The 49 participating veterans were treated to haircuts and styling by Kelly DeRoche, Lynne Steele and Freida Charron; manicures by Dawn Arsenault and Audra Trenoweth; Reiki by Birdie Rocray, Randy Leach, Kathy Touchette and Tina Erwin; and mini-massages by Heather Richambault.

Volunteers offered their time and skills in thanks for the veterans’ service.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, and state Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, were there to show their support and to speak, and Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant was there, sporting an Army shirt under his apron, and a big smile.

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Gallant, a Vietnam veteran, said this was his third year in a row helping with the event.

“It’s important we recognize female vets, who are often not recognized,” the sheriff said. “It’s like when we came back from Vietnam, we weren’t supported and recognized — women vets sometimes get that, too, so this shows appreciation.”

Chaplain Joy Bordeau, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said female veterans are special.

“They step outside the norm, outside their homes, and take an oath to defend their country,” Bordeau said. “They do what it takes to keep our freedom.” 

“And today we hand you mimosas and say thank you,” Keim said, sharing a hearty laugh with Bordeau.

Girl Scout Troops 910 and 1941 were there, singing patriotic songs, handing out thank-you cards and serving the veterans a tasty meal.

When the troops sang the national anthem, all of the veterans stood; some saluted, some put their hands over their hearts and most sang along.

Nancy Laffin of Bath, who served as a petroleum supply specialist in the U.S. Army, said events like this are important because it can be tough to meet other female veterans and do “veteran-y things.”

Andrea Tolbert of Portland, military police in the Army, said she came for the conversation, and a manicure.

Some groups of women, including the one with Tolbert, Laffin and Air Force nurse LaRhonda Harris of Jefferson, were filled with laughter and excitement. Other groups were in deep, serious conversation, hands over hands, leaning in close.

No matter what, a deep sense of connection was present.

“No matter what, we are women vets above all else,” Harris said.

emarquis@sunmediagroup.net

Veterans stood and saluted as the Girl Scouts sang the national anthem on Saturday at the fifth annual Women Veterans Luncheon at the American Legion Hall in Rumford. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, and state Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, chat at the fifth annual Women Veterans Luncheon on Saturday at the American Legion Hall in Rumford.  (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

Veterans, from left, Andrea Tolbert of Portland, Nancy Laffin of Bath and LaRhonda Harris of Jefferson participate in the fifth annual Women Veterans Luncheon at the American Legion Hall in Rumford on Saturday. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

Girl Scout Cecilia Gamache, 11, serves a salad to veteran Audrey Banks of South Paris at the fifth annual Women Veterans Luncheon on Saturday at the American Legion Hall in Rumford. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant, left, took a break from serving other veterans Saturday to joke with volunteer Matt Jabaut of the American Legion Department of Maine. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

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