By Polly Keary, Editor
The hands that cut delicate shapes out of paper to fashion elegant Christmas cards at a small crafting party earlier this month aren’t different from the hands of most women who enjoy such pursuits.
Except these women’s hands are all familiar with full-automatic weapons.
They are the members of a new craft-making club for female military veterans, and organizer Randi Bowman is looking for new recruits.
Bowman, who is a Disabled Veterans Outreach Specialist at Monroe’s WorkSource, is herself a veteran, and she got the idea to have a crafting group while attending a Veteran’s Day event with friend and fellow veteran Carolyn Holmes.
“Carolyn and I went to a veteran’s service at Monroe High School the Thursday before Veteran’s Day, and the young girls were so cute, they are asking all these questions about our military service,” said Bowman. “And I heard Carolyn talking about her time in the Coast Guard on a buoy tender, and I didn’t know she’d done that.”
Bowman thought it would be nice to hear the stories of other women who’d served in the military, as well. And she thought that doing crafts would break the ice and keep them busy as they talked. She knew several such veterans through her work, and made sure to invite them.
Five women gathered for the first meeting Dec. 3 and shared their stories as they made Christmas cards with supplies Bowman brought.
Holmes was there, and she talked about life in the Coast Guard as a young woman in a time when women in the military weren’t as ubiquitous as they are today.
“I was with a group of women who were the first women to work on what they called a black-hulled boat,” she said.
White-hulled boats were for ceremonial and official purposes. Black-hulled boats actually worked in the water.
“They weren’t sure it was going to work,” said Holmes. “The quarters are tighter; you do a lot of lifting; it’s hard work. But it worked.”
It didn’t feel like they were breaking political boundaries, she said. At the time, it just felt like an adventure.
Holmes’ role on the boat was to help with the cleaning and maintaining of the buoys that mark dangers and passageways in the Puget Sound. She finally left because she was pregnant with her first child, and as both she and her husband were in the Coast Guard, they weren’t able to come up with a parenting plan that satisfied the military that they could both stay in uniform.
While many young women were joining the military for adventure or college opportunity, Bowman joined because she was a single mom who needed a better career with a steady income. She served as a cook for eight years until a heavy tailgate fell on her and badly injured her, resulting in a disability.
It’s nice to be around other women who know military service, because they understand each other, said Bowman.
“When you are a veteran, there’s a lingo you use, and we have kind of an affinity,” she said. “We understand were each other is coming from, about what they’ve gone through when they’ve been in the military.”
The women swapped funny stories, too. One woman had served under the first female admiral in the Navy, and a lower-ranking officer failed to salute her, believing her uniform to be a Halloween costume.
Another woman talked about serving in Germany on the Berlin Wall, and being told how to move in such a way that she wouldn’t be shot.
Now the group is hoping other female veterans might join their little group. They plan to have crafts gatherings once a month.
“If you don’t want to participate, we still want you to come and chat,” said Holmes. “It’s a wonderful way to build community.”
To learn more, contact Randi Bowman at WorkSource Monroe at 17150 W. Main St., or via email at
email@example.com or by phone at (360) 746-3146.