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'It's all about the women veterans'

Sitting among women with similar stories, Bernice Shafer came the 23rd Annual Salute to Women Veterans not to speak, not to be recognized but to remember.

"This just brings back memories," said Shafer, 91, a World War II veteran. "It's a time to remember."

Shafer was one of many women veterans and about 250 attendees who were entertained by the Lackland Air Force Band of the West during the event that recognized women for their service in the United States military.

"It's all about the veterans, and this time, it's all about the women veterans," said Cynthia Vahle, associate chief of staff for the Veteran Health System Education of San Antonio.

With the help of 13 sponsors, the South Texas Veterans Health Care System hosts the event annually. Event coordinator Maria Martinez called the event a success.

"It's out goal to make it bigger and better every year," Martinez said.

This year's event was dedicated to Marjorie Arnecke, a retired Air Force traffic specialist who died last year. She had attended the Salute to Women Veterans event every year wearing her military uniform.

Shafer was recognized as one of four oldest veterans at the event. She said the event always takes her back to the year 1945 when she was stationed in Manila, Philippines.

She recalled working as a nurse in the operating room and one young soldier who suffered from head injuries too severe for anyone to help.

"I just sat there with him," Shafer said. "I always think, 'Why didn't I get his information to send a card or a letter.' One of the reasons I always come back (to the event), is because these people understand what I mean."

Seated a few rows above Shafer, Sarah Walton, a woman in her 30s, was recognized as the youngest veteran.

Walton, who retired from the military less than two years ago due to combat injuries, said it was difficult attending the event. Walton served in the Air Force for four years and the Army for six years. She suffers from post traumatic stress disorders and said she didn't seek the help she needed in time.

"I still love the military, and it's for these women I'm here," Walton said.

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