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Women who served get their due at Auburn’s Veterans Day parade

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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At 93, ex-Marine Doris Dennis wasn’t about to sit down as she rode in the back of a convertible during Auburn’s Veterans Day parade. Grasping the wrist of a comparatively young 81-year-old Korean War veteran who was sitting in the front seat, she rose up and stood waving for a parade that honored the accomplishments of women in the military. Friday’s Veterans Day parade attracted thousands of spectators and hundreds of veterans. Two hundred were women, said parade chairwoman Cynthia Haynes. For Dennis, wearing a 68-year-old uniform that required little re-tailoring before the parade, the event was the first time she had thought to take part. She was given the honor of leading the Pledge of Allegiance at a ceremony at the Gold Country Fairgrounds Armory Building after the procession had ended. “When they said they were going to honor the women – I felt it was time,” Dennis said. Dennis wasn’t the oldest veteran in the parade. Ninety-nine-year old World War II veteran Howard Staats could claim that honor. But Dennis, who lives in Auburn and remains active playing bridge and serving as the local AARP chapter publicity chairwoman, could claim title as one of the pioneers. She was in the first class of women Marines, graduating with 40 others from their Bronx, N.Y. training base after leaving her job as an Ohio school teacher. Dennis was in charge of ordering airplane parts at the El Centro training base and went on to serve as a civilian employee after World War II ended. She earned a masters of science degree from the University of Southern California and returned to teaching, retiring in 1983 from the San Juan Unified School District. Proud of her service to her country, Dennis was born before World War I had ended and before an amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowed women to vote. Women were fully integrated into the military in 1948 and today serve in crucial roles around the world. More than 213,000 women currently are serving on active duty and another 190,000 are in the reserves. In addition, there are 1.2 million women veterans. Rick Buckman, Placer County veterans services officer, described women veterans as both important figures in the history of the nation and role models for the future. Folsom’s Gloria Thornton, who served in Vietnam and was an Air Force nurse from 1968 to 1971, said the parade and celebration afterward was inspiring. She teared up along the parade route as onlookers called out their thanks and shouted “Go girl.” “It’s a wonderful way to honor the people who have dedicated their lives and talents to serving their country,” Thornton said. Karen Williams, an Auburn resident who served in the Air Force from 1969 to 1973, agreed the event was inspiring to her too. “People just don’t realize what women have done in the service,” Williams said. “We’re an instrumental part in making everything work.” A long-overdue show of support came through in waves of applause and smiles for Dennis, an old soldier with a long-held dream. “I hope we don’t have any more wars,” Dennis said. “I pray every night for no more wars.”