Honoring women veterans

West Market Street bridge renamed

Vietnam era veteran Connie Forand Sarty speaks during the dedication ceremony.

WARREN — Sunday turned up misty in downtown Warren, and the dedication ceremony of the West Market Street bridge in honor of women veterans moved indoors to the nearby Warren SCOPE Center.

An overflow crowd of public officials, veterans and students also got to hear stories of five women — Emma Ferguson, Margaret O’Brien, Connor Forand-Sarty, Donna Ball and Capt. Angie Serrao — who gave up some of their youth to serve their country during wartime.

The ceremony also culminated a weekend of bridge-naming dedications beginning with Saturday’s ceremony honoring Vietnam War veterans at the East Market Street bridge over Mosquito Creek in Howland. The bridge over East Park Avenue in Niles was renamed to honor Korean War veterans.

But Sunday’s ceremony was unique in that this is the first bridge in Ohio to be named for women veterans, according to veteran Robert Marino Sr., who organized the ceremony.

“I talked to Engineer Randy Smith and I understand that we are the first of the state’s 29,000 bridges,” Marino said.

Also helping in the ceremony were Cari Delgado, deputy director of the Veterans Service Commission, and Maj. Wendy Strainic, executive officer of the 910th Airlift Wing in Vienna. Delgado presented the invocations, while Strainic escorted the speakers to the podium.

In between war stories from the veterans, the gathering was entertained by the Warren Harding High School Madrigal and New Tomorrow singers directed by Keith Rising and Mary Meese.

O’Brien, the former Trumbull elected official who was escorted to the podium by her son, state Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, talked about her days in Japan as she treated many of the men for severe cases of frostbite.

“The Pentagon messed up because they didn’t send the servicemen the right kind of boots,” she recalled. “The second year in Japan was much better for me. I never ever regretted my time in the Army.”

Forand-Sarty, who helped treat wounded soldiers coming back from Vietnam during her service time, thanked the officials responsible for naming the bridge.

“For me, this is a very humbling event,” she said.

Persian Gulf veteran Donna Ball said she was just looking for women in the military just to be recognized for their service.

Capt. Angie Serrao who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said women had been volunteers long before they were given the right to vote.

“I want to thank all of them that served their country with courage and distinction,” Serrao said, adding that many females in the military had to put up with criticism and ridicule. “This made them work harder and smarter.”

Marino said the idea of naming the bridge after women in the military came from local veteran Ken David.

“Without (David) all this wouldn’t have become possible,” Marino said.