Operation HerStory Ludwig TWFor Women's History Month, we will be featuring some of the brave women whose stories will be shared during our Women's History Month Panel. Betsy Valentine Ludwig was a Captain in the United States Air Force Nurse Corps. She served in the obstetrical unit at Malmstorm Air Force Base in Great Falls, MT, from 1970 to 1971, and with the surgical and air-evacuation units at Clark Air Base in the Phillippine Islands from 1971 to 1972.

On why she joined: "My Dad was in WWII and I knew that if I was a guy (during this time of the Vietnam conflict), I might have been drafted. So, by me offering my assistance as a nurse, I felt that I was contributing to my country. My Dad’s unspoken courage and patriotism had influenced my determination to ‘do what I could’ to care for those in need, medically...whether it be physical or emotional.

"I would like members of our community to know that the military is not only made up of those who have to pick up arms to support a cause. There are numerous needs that are ever-present, in order to preserve and defend our freedoms."

On her memorable experiences: "Being away from home was difficult, especially around the holidays. But, we were ALL away from home! And, somehow, each one of us (patients, staff, and our fellow servicemen and women) became 'family' to one another!

"I met my husband-to-be while stationed overseas. When I was discharged from the Air Force, several of my military co-workers/staff flew to New York to be at my wedding. I was indeed, so proud to introduce them to my family and friends at my wedding."

On Operation HerStory: "I was astounded that there were SO MANY PEOPLE who wanted to show appreciation and acknowledgment to women who served. Whether we served for two years or made a career in the military, we were all so very overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and attention that was showered upon us, on our special day, Oct. 6, 2021. Being greeted by hundreds of people at both airports literally took my breath away. Perhaps no one could tell, but my mask was (thankfully) absorbing the moisture that was coming from my eyes.  Tears of joy...tears of deep pride.

"My ‘guardian’ Kathy was absolutely wonderful. She was so attentive and sincere! By the end of the day, I felt like I had gained a ‘sister.’ If I were to say one thing I regret that day, it would be that I didn’t make time to talk to other women, and ask them about their story.’"

Women r rNAPERVILLE – State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) and State Representative Janet Yang Rohr (D-Naperville) are teaming up to host a virtual discussion with retired U. S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ginny Narsete in celebration of Women’s History Month and newly-announced Women Veterans Recognition Month in Illinois. The panel will be held on Wednesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. via Facebook live.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Women’s History Month than speaking with women from our community who have played a first-hand part in shattering glass ceilings for an entire generation of women and girls,” Ellman said. “We have so much to learn from these trailblazers and their unwavering courage, and I’m honored to be part of the conversation.”

Narsete and fellow service member Navy Reserve Judge Lis Pennix are the founders of Operation HerStory, an organization founded to serve women veterans and highlight their often forgotten contributions. Narsete and her team have made it their mission to take women veterans from across Illinois on veterans flights to Washington, D.C. Veterans making the one-day trip have the opportunity to visit the war memorials built in their honor, including the Women in Military Service For America Memorial and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

Operation HerStory completed its first all-women veterans flight on Oct. 6, 2021. The flight consisted of 93 women veterans who served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War era. Narsete credits Daughters of the American Revolution, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Pritzker Military Foundation on behalf of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, the DuPage Foundation, the American Legion, the McCormick Foundation, and many other organizations for embracing women veterans and helping to make the flight possible.

“All service members deserve thanks and recognition for the sacrifices they’ve made for our country, but far too often our women in uniform are left out or forgotten,” Yang Rohr said. “This Women’s History Month, we have an opportunity to speak with brave women from across our community and highlight a fantastic organization that is working hard to give back to the women veterans who have given so much to us.”

The Operation HerStory team raised over $170,000 to self-fund the all-women’s flight. They used grassroots community outreach to find women veterans from across the state and encouraged them to be part of the inaugural flight. These trailblazing veterans who made the flight possible continue to support Operation HerStory and uphold its mission of bringing women veterans out of the woodwork to make their stories known.

Operation HerStory has made it a goal to encourage Honor Flight Chicago to invite at least 20 women per flight instead of one woman veteran for every fifth flight. There are currently 46,000 female veterans in Illinois. Roughly 7,000 are from the WW2, Korean and Vietnam War eras, and are eligible for upcoming Illinois Honor Flights.

“Operation HerStory was created to ensure that each and every woman veteran was visible and able to tell HerStory of her military experience,” Narsete said. “Operation HerStory will continue to support any individual or organization who would like to uplift women veterans as they tell their stories of groundbreaking and historic service to our country.”

During the virtual panel, Ellman, Yang Rohr and Narsete will discuss Operation HerStory and hear stories from some of the women who participated in the inaugural flight. Questions about the panel can be directed to Ellman’s office at 630-601-9961 and SenatorLauraEllman.com, or Yang Rohr’s office at 630-296-4157 and RepYangRohr.com. More information about Operation HerStory is available on the organization’s website.

Narsete and her team are also inviting women veterans from across Illinois to march in the Beverly Memorial Day parade in Beverly, Ill. Interested veterans can reach out to Narsete at 740-228-1099 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

Operation HerStory Akins TW1For Women's History Month, we will be featuring some of the brave women whose stories will be shared during our Women's History Month Panel. Kay Kinley Akins was a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force, and a Senior Master Sergeant in the Illinois Air National Guard.

On her service: "After four years, I got out of active duty Air Force as an E5. I was out for a little over a year and really missed the military so I enlisted in the Illinois Air National Guard and retired as an E8.

"I was in Supply both active and Guard but retired as the First Sergeant of my Supply Unit.  I was stationed in San Antonio, Texas twice and also served in Taiwan at Shu Linkou Air Station while on active duty. My Guard time was spent at the National Guard base at O'Hare Airport."

On why she joined: "The Vietnam war was going on and I had a cousin severely injured after stepping on a land mine.  Back then recruiters came into the high school cafeteria during lunch and after talking to the Air Force recruiter I felt the pull to enlist. 

"When I enlisted they actually took modeling poses of the female recruits - at least the Air Force did! As an enlisted airman I did not get to pick my career path - A thru H were chosen to be medics, I thru M - I was going to supply school! Of course back then only nurses were sent to Vietnam. We were not trained to shoot a gun or anything else and we always wore a skirt - with full girdle, nylons and slip! Thank God, times have changed! Thanks to Ruth Bader Ginsburg women can now also be a soldier and a mom. When I went in you had to choose one or the other."

On her memorable experiences: "Seeing the world and making really good friends. I was activated in the Guard for Desert Shield and served in Spain prior to Desert Storm.

"As a female in uniform, I always felt I had to do my best. I was representing the Air Force but I was also woman in the Air Force. I am extremely happy that I was able to retire with benefits as a Veteran. I think serving also left me with the attitude that you have to step up and help in this world."

On Operation HerStory: "Everything was awesome! I feel extremely lucky to have met Ginny and had the opportunity to go. I met so many truly awesome women on the trip and we all shared a bond from the minute we met each other."

021022CT00036 rSPRINGFIELD – A measure by State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) to create the Hydrogen Economy Task Force and establish Illinois as a Hydrogen Hub in the Midwest advanced out of the Senate on Friday.

“Through this legislation, Illinois has the opportunity to take the lead on a nationwide effort to spur clean energy and hydrogen generation,” Ellman said. “As a potential Midwest Hydrogen Hub, we can support our agricultural, refinery and transportation industries and create jobs for workers across the state.”

The Hydrogen Economy Task Force established under Senate Bill 3613 would be responsible for publishing a plan to create a Hydrogen Hub in Illinois, identifying opportunities to integrate hydrogen into the economy, analyzing barriers to hydrogen development, and recommending policies to catalyze deployment of hydrogen in the state economy.

Senate Bill 3613 is intended to put Illinois in a position to become a Clean Hydrogen Hub. Both the University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill. have partnered with the intent of participating in the federal Clean Hydrogen Hub program, through which the Secretary of Energy must select at least four regional Hubs to prioritize opportunities for skilled training and long-term employment.

“Illinois residents and the surrounding environment will benefit greatly from a Hydrogen Hub,” said State Senator John Connor (D-Lockport), a chief co-sponsor of the measure. “I am proud to partner with Senator Ellman in bringing clean energy to our state and continue the conversation about environmental justice.”

The legislation now goes to the House for further consideration.

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