Latina contributions to the Nation's Military Service
by Judith Bellafaire, Ph.D. Curator
Women in Military Service Foundation
THE LATINO JOURNAL E-NEWS
Five years after the Gulf War, Hispanic women comprised approximately six percent of enlisted women in the military, and three percent of female officers. Today, Hispanic women are serving throughout the armed forces and breaking traditional barriers. Army Major Sonia Roca, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was proud to have been the first Hispanic female officer to attend the Command and General Staff College. Iris Rodriguez, a sergeant with the United States Army, was the Military District of Washington's Soldier of the Year in 1996. During an assignment at the Pentagon, she was selected to work for the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).
A Family Affair
We often hear stories of sons following their fathers into the service or of brothers enlisting together to fight the enemy. As women establish their own military tradition, daughters now follow in their mother's footsteps and sisters serve together. The experiences of one woman can inspire those around her to pursue a military career.
Diana (Ruiz) Werts joined the Women's Army Corps (WAC), in 1955, "to see the world." After her first assignment in Chicago, IL, she was sent overseas and stationed in Germany. During her tour, Corporal Werts was a member of the Women's Army Volleyball Team. "I was fortunate to travel to other European countries, sampling their cultures. Truly an experience not to be forgotten," she recalls. Werts was honorably discharged from the WAC in 1958.
Encouraged by the experiences of her sister Diana, Diamantina (Ruiz) Jannone enlisted in the Air Force in 1960 and served until 1963. During her career, she served as a flight traffic specialist with the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). She routed air traffic when President Kennedy deployed thousands of troops to West Berlin and assisted in the transportation of soldiers and cargo en route to Vietnam. Airman First Class Jannone also participated in Showtime McGuire, an entertainment group of personnel from McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, and performed at northern bases including Thule, Greenland.
Their sister, Geraldina (Ruiz) Zore, joined the Army in 1970 and attended Officer's Candidate School at Ft. McClellan, AL. As a second lieutenant, she was a WAC Detachment Commander and the first female commander to whom a male soldier was assigned. She served as a recruiting operations officer and was the first female account officer with responsibility for two finance officers and a forward support team. As a captain, Zore was assigned to the Department of the Army Quality Assurance Team. She then served as an inspector general for a joint command, and was the first female finance officer to be selected and serve as battalion commander and account holder. Lieutenant Colonel Zore, who retired in 1994, believes that her success in traditional male jobs has paved the way for other women to follow.
Lillie Werts-Smith, following the example of her mother Diana and two aunts, also chose to serve her country in the armed forces. In 1977, she joined the Air National Guard. Werts-Smith served until 1988, at which time she became a nurse in the Army National Guard. Her unit was activated during Operation Desert Storm. In 1997, Werts-Smith retired as a major after serving 20 years.
The Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc. honors all women who have served or are serving in or with the US Armed Forces from the creation of this nation to the present day. The Women's Memorial is asking descendents, family, friends, and all servicewomen (veterans, active duty, Guard and Reserve) to register women's military experiences. Every woman's story is important and without them our history will never be complete. Please call 800-4-SALUTE for more information or visit the Women's Memorial Website.