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Discover Fauquier June/July 2018
36
Fauquier resident and U.S. Army veteran Jean Gillen
has managed to live a life both traditional and unique.
Her path has been conventional in the sense that she
followed the example set by many family members before
her, choosing a life of military service.
"It's probably in my DNA," she says
when asked why she chose to enlist
in the army in November of 1961, the
same year she graduated high school.
"My father served during World War II
in the South Pacific, and we have had
relatives in the military dating as far
back as the Revolutionary War."
One of those relatives was Jean's Aunt
Sarabelle "Sally" Wetherholt Harper,
who also enlisted during the Second
World War. Her daughter, Janet
Wetherholt, is a veteran as well--a
nurse. Jean is quick to note that women
who served during the First and Second
World Wars were not considered by
the United States government to be
veterans until decades later, when so
many had already passed away.
This is a failure that women in the
military are trying to correct. The Women in Military
Service for America Memorial in Washington, DC, is one
such countermeasure. This 33,000-square-foot education
center, which sits at the entrance of
Arlington National Cemetery, just
celebrated its 20th anniversary. It holds
thousands of artifacts, images, and
memorabilia related to women in the
military, and is the only major memorial
in the world that honors their service.
During a recent trip to visit the
Memorial, of which Jean is a charter
member, she saw Hello Girls, a
traveling documentary about the 223
women who served as switchboard
operators during World War I. "The
women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps
were heroes in the war, but when they
returned home, they soon learned that
the government that had recruited them
for this mission did not consider them
veterans," says Jean. "It took 60 years
to get recognition for their service."
Though Jean and her Aunt Sally were close, to this day
she knows very little about her service. "She didn't talk
much about the war," she says. "We think she may have
been a nurse. Women have always pitched in to serve
their country in times of need but weren't necessarily
recognized as war heroes."
Despite her aunt's silence on the subject, Jean was
inspired to follow in her footsteps, and at 18 years old,
she left for basic training at Fort McClellan Army Base
in Anniston, Alabama, after which she was stationed at
First Army Headquarters at Governor's Island, assigned
to what was called "Special Services." "That was an
~ Caitlin Scott
Recognizing Women of the Armed Forces
this Memorial Day
Jean (left) with Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught
(USA, Ret.), founding president of the
Women in Military Service for
America Memorial.
Jean at the Women's Memorial with
Denise Rohan, first woman National
Commander of the American Legion.
easy job," she remembers. "I essentially coordinated the
weekend entertainment for the men on base, bringing in
bands to play concerts." Jean recalls one fateful day in
November of 1963 when she was picking up The Mamas
and the Papas on a military bus, and
someone stopped them to report that
President Kennedy had been shot.
Jean completed active duty in April
of 1964 and served in the U.S. Army
Reserve from 1979 to 1997. While
in the Reserves, Jean enrolled
in military education courses in
Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical
(NBC) Defense and Psychological
Operations. She became an NBC NCO
Staff Sergeant and trained soldiers in
MOPP level 4, the protective gear that
must be worn when the highest degree
of chemical and biological protection
is required. "Even though it was very
important, none of the soldiers wanted
to go through the training at first," she
says. "It was exceptionally difficult.
They had to learn how to put on their
masks and gear in eight seconds while
standing in chambers filled with tear
gas." Jean successfully trained every soldier in her unit
and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for
"her intense interest in and excellent knowledge of NBC
operations and training techniques,"
which contributed hugely to soldier
readiness.
Jean retired from the military as a
Sergeant First Class in 1997 with
many honors, most notably the Army
Commendation Medal for her NBC
training, as well as the Humanitarian
Service Medal for her work in the
1970s when she assisted with
processing Cuban immigration into
the U.S. In 2009, she was named
Legionnaire of the Year for American
Legion Post 72 for starting "Support
Our Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,"
a project that collected $3,000 in
donations to purchase personal items
for soldiers. This year, she has been
invited to speak at the Women in
Military Service for America Memorial
on May 28.
"The military is a very special group of people--they are
comrades, they are family," says Jean. "Our vets deserve
a day set aside to honor them for the heartache and
sacrifice that make our freedom possible." Jean wants
people to know that all 14,524 women in Virginia who
have served in the military are registered at the Memorial,
with 141 in Fauquier County.
As we celebrate Memorial Day, Discovery Publications
thanks Jean and the women and men who have served,
been wounded, or lost their lives.
Discovery Publications
Welcomes
Monique Laventure to
the Team
FOCUS
on business
~ Caitlin scott
Monique Laventure just finished her first
week at Discovery Publications as its
new sales representative for Western
Prince William County, and she couldn't
be happier. She feels that throughout her
working life, advertising has always been
her sweet spot--much more a calling
than a job. A former ad executive with The
Connection newspapers, Monique loves
not only getting to know local people but
the industries they represent. She calls
this type of work "progress every day,"
adding that, "Helping business owners
create their ads is so enjoyable to me. It
lets my creative side come out."
Born at Fort Belvoir, Monique is
a Northern Virginia native. Three
years ago, she decided to relocate to
Alabama's Gulf Coast to be with her
mother, Helen. Monique is now settled
comfortably in Warrenton, and her
parents live in Gainesville. In fact, if
you do business with Monique, you just
might have the pleasure of meeting her
mother someday. "One day, I asked my
mother if she wanted to come along as
my assistant," shares Monique. "She
loved it! I told her I'd take her out once
a month."
Besides close ties with family, a
connection to her community is
paramount to Monique. Over the course
of her career, she has been a member
of various local business chambers and
has forthcoming plans to join the Prince
William Chamber and the Haymarket
Business Association. She also promises
to keep an eye out for community events
wherever she is, bringing literature she
picks up throughout Bristow, Haymarket,
Manassas, and Gainesville back to the
paper to turn into content. "I'm putting
down roots," says Monique. "I want to
help build up the community where I
live and work." Discovery Publications
is thrilled to have you on our team,
Monique!
Monique Laventure