Special to the Somerville News by HdG, Dna. Maria St. Catherine De Grace Sharpe, President, The Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers Initiative for Veterans & Women Veterans Program Management & Professional Leadership Excellence in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
On October 16, 2012 Mrs. Margaret Klessens, a Somerville resident and former Women’s Army Corps (WAC) veteran who served during World War II, was one of more than a dozen World War II women veterans recently honored during the 25th Annual Luncheon Tribute to the Greatest Generation: The Women Veterans of WWII.
The event, hosted by the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans (GACWV) and held at Lombardo’s in Randolph on Saturday, October 13, included a salute to the colors, remarks by Commander Anita M. Reed, a USAF veteran and current State Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Association, a formal luncheon, and a post-luncheon gift raffle.
A distinctive highlight of the luncheon was the personal award of a special WWII commemorative coin to each Commonwealth WWII woman veteran by Commonwealth Secretary of Veterans’ Services Coleman Nee. Secretary Nee made a point to chat with each WWII woman veteran individually and personally thanked each for her service.
Mrs. Klessens (nee Tiernan), formerly of Charlestown, Massachusetts, enlisted in the WAC and was honorably discharged after active duty military service during WWII. Mrs. Klessens, a regular participant in the Chelsea Soldier’s Home Veterans Day Club, has come to the annual luncheon for many years. She was joined by her daughter Sally Klessens, a Somerville resident, a former Miss Somerville and President of the Old Charlestown Schoolgirls’ Association, her son Bill Klessens, a State Delegate of New Hampshire, and her sister Annie Tiernan of Charlestown. Currently of Somerville, Mrs. Klessens was born and raised in Charlestown and is an alumna of St. Mary’s Grammar School in Charlestown and a graduate of Charlestown High.
The GACWV, currently consisting of eight MA women veterans appointed by the Governor, was established in 1984 under Governor Michael Dukakis. Under Chapter 115 of Massachusetts General Law, the Committee is tasked to “investigate, foster and promote the interests of women veterans.”
The GACWV tribute this year to WWII women veterans was timely because it coincides with the May 1942 Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) legislation drafted and sponsored by MA Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers (R-Lowell). That groundbreaking legislation marks its 70th anniversary this year; it allowed American women to serve in the US Army during WWII albeit without official status and benefits. Later during the war, in July of 1943, at the request of the Department of the Army, Congress approved the WAAC to officially become the WAC. The creation of the WAC ensured American women in the US Army received official military status and benefits equal to those of their male US Army counterparts.
Earlier this year MA Governor Deval Patrick signed a proclamation honoring the life and legacy of Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers, a dynamic daughter of the Commonwealth dedicated to veterans affairs. The Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial VA Hospital in Bedford was named to honor the late congresswoman. Her personal and official papers are archived at the Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library at Harvard University. Both institutions have received an edition of the Rogers Proclamation.
Many former WAC veterans also have been members of the Women’s Army Corps Veterans’ Association (WACVA). For many years WACVA included a Boston chapter, but the Boston chapter disbanded just this past July due to the loss of aging members.
All the WW II woman veterans attending the GACWV luncheon were gratified at being honored by Secretary Nee for their service to the nation.