Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Austintown bridge honors women veterans
By Justin Wier
At a ceremony, local lawmakers unveiled a sign that will designate the flag-adorned Mahoning Avenue bridge over state Route 11 as the Women Veterans Memorial Bridge.
The idea originated with Leo Connelly, former commander of Disabled American Veterans District 9, who said the honor has been a long time coming.
“It took us 15 years to educate the public, but [women veterans] are finally getting the long-overdue respect they deserve,” Connelly said. “This sign is going to make people never forget our women vets.”
Women comprise 20 percent of new military recruits, 18 percent of the National Guard and reserve forces, 15 percent of those on active duty and 10 percent of the country’s 22 million veterans, he said.
Susan Krawchyk, executive director of the Mahoning County Veteran Service Commission, said it honors the women before her who broke barriers and allowed her to serve in the Iraq War.
“It brings special recognition to women veterans that played an integral part in our country’s history,” Krawchyk said.
Contributions by women in war extend back to the American Revolution when women dressed as men to fight for their country’s independence.
Connelly said when the U.S. launched airstrikes Friday on Syria, he enjoyed hearing newscasters attribute the attacks to men and women fighter pilots.
“Maybe what we’re doing is working,” Connelly said.
Representatives of Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Bill Johnson presented Connelly and Krawchyk with proclamations. The Mahoning Valley’s state legislators, the county commissioners and Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown also presented proclamations and spoke in support of the recognition.
State Rep. John Boccieri of Poland, D-59th, drew attention to the recent effort to create transitional housing for women veterans at Oakhill Renaissance Place.
The county did not receive money in the state’s capital budget for the project, but Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said the commissioners will continue to push for it.
Boccieri said it needs to be the next big project, and added women are currently the fastest-growing share of homeless veterans.
The Ohio Department of Transportation will post the sign near the bridge when weather permits. It is the second bridge honoring women veterans in Ohio.