Villagers for Veterans’ Orchid Gala pays tribute to women veterans

Villagers for Veterans honored women veterans at the Orchid Gala on Saturday at the Savannah Center. Female veterans of all ages attended this event. A VIP reception featuring New York Times bestselling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon preceded the entertainment portion of the evening which featured Petrina and Roy Michaels.

At the VIP reception guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while getting their copies of “Ashley’s War” signed by Lemmon.  “Ashley’s War” tells the story of women soldiers on the special ops battlefield.

Retired Air Force Major Louise "Robbie" Robinson

Retired Air Force Major Louise “Robbie” Robinson

“I am totally for it,” said Retired Air Force Major Louise “Robbie” Robinson, referring to women in combat.  She served as a flight nurse from 1973 until she was medically retired in 1982.

“I was on the Florence Nightingale flight the first time there was a female pilot on a DC9. I think all the career fields in the military should be open to women,” said Robinson who now resides in the Village of Belle Aire.

On a lighter note, the night of the gala she was attired in her military full dress uniform and was just happy she could still get in it after 43 years.

A touching moment during the evening was the tribute to the Memorial Table, a table set to honor the fallen soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. As the guests looked on each item on the table and its symbolism was described. Salt symbolizing the tears of friends and family, lemon symbolizing their bitter fate and an empty glass turned upside down symbolizing they will not be toasting with us this evening were some of the items described. A moment of silence followed.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, left, and Marie Bogdonoff

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, left, and Marie Bogdonoff

Following this tribute Lemmon took the stage for a lively talk about a serious subject. What began as an assignment for a magazine piece ultimately became “Ashley’s War.”  She wants people to understand women in uniform. “They can be tough as nails, but they still paint their nails,” she said.

This book focuses on one team of military women; at the heart of the team is Lt. Ashley White. Lemmon described her as a combination of GI Jane and Martha Stewart. She was killed in October 2011 in a special ops nighttime raid.

Artist Connie Giacobbe with her Italian Mosaic “Battle Buddies.”

Artist Connie Giacobbe with her Italian Mosaic “Battle Buddies.”

A live auction of artist Connie Giacobbe’s mosaic “Battle Buddies” brought in $2,600 for Villagers for Veterans which will use the money to help returning veterans.

And then the evening was turned over to the musical guests.

Shanda Taylor-Boyd with service dog Timber.

Shanda Taylor-Boyd with service dog Timber.

Most in the audience were Villagers, however Shanda Taylor-Boyd who connected with Villagers for Veterans founder Marie Bogdonoff on Facebook, has become involved and attended the event from her home in Seattle. Medically retired after serving in the Army for 23 years, Boyd has a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. She gets assistance from her service dog Timber.

“I feel God has inspired me to turn tragedy into triumph. I feel it is my mission to help other veterans,” she said.

Unique on the guest list were the four sisters, two retired military and two on active duty in attendance.

This is the second annual event held by Villages for Veterans to raise funds for all the work they do helping veterans regain their independence.

Shanda Taylor Boyd, Sebastiana Lopez Arellano, Marie Bogbonoff and Josha Bell Lopez, from left.

Shanda Taylor Boyd, Sebastiana Lopez Arellano, Marie Bogbonoff and Josha Bell Lopez, from left.




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  1. Aileen Milton says

    Great event .. Marie and her volunteers work hard to put on the events and support both Men, Women and Family members of our brave and loyal troops. Thank you all.

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