Governor Tom Wolf, First Lady Frances Wolf Join Commission for Women to Honor Female Veterans During Women’s History Month
March 27, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf, First Lady Frances Wolf, and Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, today joined the Pennsylvania Commission for Women to host the fourth annual Female Veterans Day Ceremony in celebration of Women’s History Month. During the event, held at the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg, 16 women from across the commonwealth were recognized for their military service and selfless sacrifice to Pennsylvania and to the nation.
“Today is a day to celebrate women veterans in every branch of the military,” Governor Wolf said. “We have women from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Navy Reserve, Pennsylvania National Guard and Marine Corps — all here so we can thank them and let them know their hard work and sacrifice is truly appreciated. The commitment these women have made to their country and our commonwealth means so much to us. This day is about expressing our gratitude in one small way.”
“For nearly 250 years, spanning from the Revolutionary War to today’s conflicts, women have played vital roles in our military,” said Carrelli. “The 16 women who we honor today represent the patriotism and commitment to country that more than 60,000 Pennsylvania female veterans have demonstrated through their military service.”
“On behalf of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, we are honored to join Governor Wolf, First Lady Frances Wolf, and Adjutant General Tony Carrelli to honor these brave women for their service,” Commission Chair Randi Teplitz said. “One of our biggest missions as a commission is to support female service members and veterans, and this event – which continues to grow in size each year – is one way we can elevate these inspiring women and the vitally important ways they contribute to keeping Pennsylvania, and our nation, safe.”
The following women were honored for their service:
• MinJae Back (Philadelphia) Major MinJae Back enlisted in the U.S. Army as a pharmacy technician in 2003. In 2008, she commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Military Intelligence Corps. She deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Her next deployment was to South Korea, where she managed daily ground intelligence updates of North Korean activities and acted as the Korean interpreter for the unit. Major Back currently serves as an assistant professor of military science at Drexel University.
• Dana Boyer (Lebanon County) Major Dana Boyer enlisted as a private in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 1996. In 2004, she commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Quartermaster Corp. She deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon her return home, she was selected to be the commander for the 131st Transportation Company, which she led in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. As a result of her deployment to Afghanistan and the loss of three fellow soldiers, Major Boyer is currently organizing to have a Fallen Hero Memorial built at Fort Indiantown Gap, slated to break ground this spring.
• Kathryn Cuff (Northampton County) Kathryn Cuff served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1994 to 2006 as a Generator Mechanic and as an Intelligence Analyst, achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. During that time, she earned multiple decorations, including the Purple Heart. Upon separation from the Army, Kathryn started working as an Army Civilian in 2007 at Tobyhanna Army Depot and was then promoted and reassigned to Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
• Mary Donahue (Delaware County) Mary Donahue joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a private in 1954 and retired as a captain in 1975. She was commissioned in 1966 while serving at Parris Island during the Vietnam War. Captain Donahue worked in various roles, eventually becoming Staff Secretary to the Commanding General in Okinawa. She was then transferred to Quantico, Virginia, where she served as Adjutant at the Women Marine Company. She finished her career at Marine Barracks in Philadelphia, retiring after 21 years of service.
• Barbara Ellis (Crawford County) Barbara Ellis joined the U.S. Army Student Nurses Program as a private in 1958 and was promoted to corporal before graduating in 1960. After passing the state boards for nursing, Barbara became a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. She was stationed at various locations stateside, and then sent to Yokohama, Japan where she cared for wounded soldiers coming from Vietnam. In total, she spent six years serving overseas. She retired as a major in 1978.
• Teresa Gallagher (Cumberland County) Colonel Teresa Gallagher is a retired helicopter pilot for the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Gallagher was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1983 through her college’s ROTC program. She began her flying career in 1985, after graduating from flight school. In 2009, she deployed to Iraq as the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade Commander. Concurrent with her military career, Gallagher served as a science teacher at ABRAXAS Juvenile Detention Center and the Scotland School for Veterans’ Children. She is currently employed as an Instructional Systems Designer for the Department of Defense.
• Linda Handley (Monroe County) Linda Handley is a native of Allentown, and returned to the Lehigh Valley in 2015 after spending the last 30 years in San Diego. Linda first entered the U.S. Navy as a Radioman, later becoming an Information Systems Technician. Starting her Naval career as an E-1, she progressed rapidly through the ranks — ultimately attaining the high rank of Master Chief. She has been assigned to many different types of ships and completed successful tours aboard eight Naval Vessels.
• Charlotte Kinney (Cumberland County) Charlotte Kinney served in the U.S. Army – both active duty and reserves — from 1963 to 1994. She retired as a lieutenant colonel. She started her career in the Woman’s Army Corps College Junior program, and was commissioned upon graduation. When the Woman’s Army Corps was disbanded in 1974, she was reassigned to the Adjutant General Branch. Charlotte’s purpose in joining the Army was to be a chaplain, although at the time women were barred from that job. However, she was instrumental in helping to open the doors for women and while stationed in the Pentagon, she had the privilege of revising the Chaplain’s regulation to allow women into the Chaplains Corps. Charlotte was never able to become a chaplain, as it was too late in her Army career to attend seminary. Charlotte is currently completing her Master’s degree at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown.
• Rachel Lefebvre (Lehigh County) Rachel Lefebvre is a board-certified healthcare executive with national and international expertise leading integrated healthcare systems. Currently, Rachel serves as a Vice President of Operations with Lehigh Valley Health Network, overseeing two hospital campuses. Prior to this role, she had a long career in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a colonel in 2017 with nearly 26 years of service. Rachel distinguished herself by commanding three different medical groups in both the U.S. and in a combat zone. She also served multiple tours in the Pentagon and held a variety of leadership positions throughout her career.
• Nancy Lescavage (Dauphin County) Nancy Lescavage served in the U.S. Navy for over 35 years and rose to the rank of rear admiral while holding a variety of leadership, business, education, clinical, and legislative liaison roles. She most recently served as the Deputy Secretary for Quality Assurance at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In her military career, some of Nancy’s significant accomplishments include: serving as director of Tricare Region West, serving as director of the Navy Nurse Corps, and serving as commanding officer of Naval Hospital Corpus Christi. Her Washington experience also includes service as a Congressional Fellow in the Office of the Chairman, Senate Defense Appropriations where she was recognized as an authority on the legislative process.
• Beth Rooney (Montgomery County) Beth Rooney was selected as one of the first women for U.S. Navy flight training, and entered Aviation Officers Candidate School in 1977. She earned her pilot wings in 1979. Beth was one of the first women to fly tactical jets. She taught aeronautical engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1988 to 1991. She retired from the Naval Reserve as a commander in 2002.
• Jeannette South-Paul (Allegheny County) Dr. Jeannette South-Paul served in the U.S. Army for 21 years beginning with ROTC, and retiring as a colonel. During her time of military service, she worked as an Army physician – her last duty station was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Currently, Dr. South-Paul is the first woman and the first African-American to serve as the permanent chair of a department at the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. South-Paul’s research focuses on maternal-child health, particularly teen pregnancy.
• Danielle Watkins (Lebanon County) Chief Warrant Officer 3 Danielle Watkins enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard in March 2001 while attending nursing school, and was assigned to the 131st Transportation Company as a tractor trailer driver. In 2003, she deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. Upon graduating from nursing school, Danielle became employed with the Lebanon VA Medical Center and worked on a medical-surgical unit. She was then selected to serve as the nurse case manager on the Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom Team, and was responsible for care coordination and outreach for returning veterans. After nine years of enlisted service, Danielle attended Warrant Officer Candidate School and Army Rotary Wing Aviation School – and went on to become a Blackhawk pilot. She deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. She continues to serve, and is currently on a military leave of absence from the VA, serving an AGR tour at Fort Indiantown Gap.
• Maureen Weigl (Dauphin County) Retired Colonel Maureen Weigl joined the U.S. Army in 1993, serving as a human resources officer, recruiter, and project manager in Iraq. She went on to become a Deputy Division Chief in the Army National Guard. She also served as the Executive Assistant to the Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., ensuring he was ready to serve as a member of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. She sits on the Board of Visitors for the Widener University Commonwealth Law School’s Veterans Initiative and on the Lieutenant Governor’s Veterans Task Force. She currently serves as CEO of a veteran-owned recruiting firm based in Harrisburg.
• Deborah Wilkins (Westmoreland County) Sergeant Major Deborah Wilkins entered into active military service with the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990 as a Motor Transport Operator. She completed ten years in the Marines, attaining the rank of staff sergeant. In 2000, Deborah joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 28th Military Police Company where she served for thirteen years. Sergeant Major Wilkins has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom, earning both the Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge. She also recently returned from a deployment to Kuwait, and is currently in her 30th year of military service.
• Claudette Williams (Monroe County) Claudette Williams is the president of her borough council, a police commissioner, former chair of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, and is a retired 30-year U.S. Army sergeant major. Personal endeavors of overcoming statistics and accessing higher goals led her to achieving the rank of sergeant major — a position attained by less than one percent of the Armed Forces. Her missions included serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. Here at home, Claudette is the first woman of color to be elected as president of the Mount Pocono Borough Council. She also serves as a police commissioner for the Pocono Regional Police and once again is the first African American to hold that position.
The Pennsylvania Commission for Women, which was created by Executive Order and consists of volunteer members, is responsible for advising the governor on policies and legislation that impact women; supporting economic and civic opportunities for women; encouraging mentoring programs for girls and young women; identifying programs and opportunities for the benefit and advancement of women; and serving as a resource center for Pennsylvania women and girls. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, visit the Commission’s website or follow the Commission on Facebook.