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TDVA Hosts First Annual Tennessee Women Veterans Summit

Saturday, April 28, 2012 | 12:30pm

Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder hosted the First Annual Women’s Veterans Summit today in Nashville. The inaugural event was co-sponsored by the Women Veterans of America Chapter 20. 
Nearly 150 attendees heard from several prominent women such as Congressman Diane Black, Betty Moseley Brown, Ed.D., Associate Director of the Center for Women Veterans, Brigadier General (ret) Wilma Vaught President of the Board of Directors of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, and Mary Ross, National Commander for Women Veterans of America. 
“As the first woman to serve as TDVA’s Commissioner and a veteran of 35 years in the Tennessee National Guard, I am proud to be a part of this historic milestone for Tennessee’s women veterans,” Grinder said. “I believe this event will begin an annual tradition and help build a network to support and connect women veterans.”
During the Summit, Mary Ross was named Tennessee’s First Woman Veteran of the Year. The National Commander for Women Veterans of America began her military career in the United States Army in 1974. She served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm with the 2nd Brigade Task Force, 101st Airborne Division. Ross retired in July 1995 as a Sergeant First Class. Her continued commitment to veterans includes serving as the Deputy Executive Director for Operation Stand Down Nashville, Inc. which assists veterans facing issues such as homelessness. Ross is also active in the Women Veterans Network, Tennessee Valley Health Care System, VFW, American Legion and is a member of the Board of Directors Tennessee State Veterans Homes. Ross was recently appointed to the Governor’s Council on Service Members, Veterans and Their Families.
World War II United States Army Veteran Laura Rhodes was a special guest at the Women’s Veterans Summit. The 101-year old Lake County native currently lives at the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Humboldt and is believed to be the state’s oldest living woman veteran.
During the event, attendees remembered two fallen Tennessee women veterans. CW2 Billie Jean Grinder of Smyrna, was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq on February 21, 2010. The 25-year old step-mother, daughter and wife, was the first female Tennessee National Guard Soldier to die in Iraq. Army Corporal Michelle R. Ring of Portland, was killed by mortar fire while on guard duty at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq on July 5, 2007. The 24-year old single mother is survived by two young sons. 
Adding to the patriotic theme, Country Music Legend Lee Greenwood performed “God Bless the USA” during the second half of the day-long event.
Several vendors assisted attendees with questions regarding federal benefits, employment opportunities, healthcare, and other veteran resources.
The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to serving veterans and their families with dignity and compassion. TDVA is committed to be an advocate for veterans to ensure they receive the care, support, earned entitlements and recognition they earned in service to our country. For more information, visit the department’s website at, or stay up to date by following the department on twitter @TNDVA