Women veterans go to nation's capital with Honor Flight Austin

Honor Flight Austin took its second group of all women veterans to the nation’s capital over the weekend.

42 women veterans, most of them from Central Texas, spent Saturday touring their war memorials in Washington and Arlington.

It was 96-year-old Anna Gatti's third visit to the World War II memorial with Honor Flight Austin.  The Navy veteran worked stateside in intelligence during the war.

"We just happened to be there at the right time,” Gatti said. “Anybody who was there would have done the same thing. There was nothing special about us.” 

Most of the women in the group were veterans of the Vietnam War.

Some found names of friends and loved ones on the wall, including Alicia Pineda of San Marcos. Richard Lopez, her childhood friend was killed at the age of 19.

"I came to pay my respects to all those who fell that I didn't know and those that I did know,” said Pineda.

The women also witnessed the changing of the guard ceremony and placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

While much of the tour was somber and reflective there were also moments of levity.

"Well I'm prejudice of course, it's about time they had one,” Gatti said. “Took'em awhile to do it. But, you know it's great.”

Vice Admiral Raquel Cruz Bono, a University of Texas grad and the highest ranking female in the Navy medical corps, greeted the veterans and was as honored to meet them, as they were to meet her.

"This is very special. Many of these women paved the way for the rest of us. If it weren't for them, so many of us women in military, in uniform today, would not have been able to achieve the ranks that we have today. It's incredible,” said Bono.

The veterans, whose shoulders she stood on appreciate that recognition.

“It's humbling. It really is. And, we had a great return in our investment with her. She's inspiring,” said Donna Whitworth. 

At the end of the whirlwind 30 plus hour trip tears were shed, laughs were shared and friends were made with Gatti's wit and grit leading the charge.

"Think of all of the people who have done so much and sacrificed so much for our country. Don't forget them. I get all weepy,” said Gatti.