NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 9, 2022—Two days before Veterans Day, extraordinary women who serve were honored at the NYC Women’s Veterans Grove in Central Park. This annual event—A Living Tribute Celebrating Women Who Serve America—recognizes service to this country.
This tribute, now in its fourth year, is held at the Overseas Service League Flagstaff and NYC Women’s Veterans Grove in Central Park. The grove of 24 trees and flagstaff were conceptualized in 1925 as a tribute to American women, including American Red Cross nurses, who died overseas during World War One. Today, the living memorial of thriving trees located along Fifth Avenue from 69th to 71st streets recognizes women who served our nation in countless ways.
The event was organized by The Howard Teich Network, Office of Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, NYC Department of Veterans Services, the American Red Cross in Greater NY, the Columbus Citizens Foundation, and the Eastside WWI Centennial Commemoration, with support from Council Member Gale Brewer. 2021 honoree CAPT Zeita Merchant, Coast Guard Sector New York Commander, Captain of the Port, served as master of ceremonies.
Below are the 2022 Women of Service for America Honorees who were recognized for their service:
- Gayle Colacicco – Volunteer, Service to the Armed Forces, American Red Cross in Greater NY - Colacicco, a retired federal civil servant, military spouse, mother, and grandmother, has been a Red Cross volunteer since 1978, providing critical support to active-duty service members, veterans, and their families. Today she volunteers for the Red Cross at West Point Military Academy.
- Command Sergeant Major Eva M. Commons - Fort Hamilton US Army Garrison - In April of this year, Command Sergeant Major Commons, a decorated service member and Bay Ridge native, was installed as the new command sergeant major at Fort Hamilton. In this role she serves as the top noncommissioned officer of the garrison command.
- Viviana DeCohen - Director, NY State Division of Veterans’ Services - DeCohen, a Marine Corps veteran, currently serves as Director of the NY State Division of Veterans’ Services, a position she took on in November 2021. Along with this role, DeCohen is also a member of American Legion Post 1038 (Valhalla, N.Y), the Women Marines Association, NY-6, Navy League, and Student Veterans of America (Washington, D.C.). Viviana is a passionate, relentless supporter of veteran causes and a recognized thought-leader on navigating the difficult challenges veterans face in the community.
- Laura Kavanagh - Commissioner, New York City Fire Department - In October of 2022, Laura Kavanagh was appointed commissioner of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), bringing years of experience building a safer and more efficient department and city government to keep New Yorkers safe. She previously served as first deputy commissioner and, most recently, as acting-fire commissioner. As FDNY commissioner, Kavanagh oversees the day-to-day administration of the agency’s 17,000 employees and $2 billion budget.
- Juanita N. Holmes - Chief, New York City Police Department Training Bureau - Chief Juanita N. Holmes was appointed to the New York City Police Department in July 1987 and is currently the Chief of Training. Prior to taking on this role, she served Chief of Patrol, the first woman to serve in this position, where she managed the department’s largest bureau.
- Dr. Mecca Nelson - Founder & CEO, Humble Haitian Warrior; Gold Star Spouse; Tunnel to Towers Foundation Ambassador - In October 2020, Dr. Mecca Nelson began Humble Haitian Warrior Inc, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and uplifting Gold Star families through connection, community, and creativity.
- Won Palisoul - Navy Veteran; Founder of the Women Veterans & Families Network - Palisoul, a veteran of the US Navy, is the founder of the Women Veterans & Families Network, an organization whose mission is to empower, support, and promote the general welfare of women veterans and military families through professional development, resources, networking, advocacy, mentorship, and outreach.
- Capt. Haida StarEagle - First Native American Intelligence Officer in the US Space Force - Capt. Haida StarEagle, a 17-year-veteran of the Air Force, transferred to the Space Force in March of 2021. She hails from the 36th Intelligence Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, where she served as a flight commander of training. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, StarEagle is a member of the Matinecock Tribe.
The event concluded with a special recognition by CAPT Zeita Merchant and RADM Joanna Nunan, USCG Retired celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Coast Guard Women Reserve (also known as the SPARs). The SPARs is a program, established in November of 1942 by President Franklin Roosevelt, that allowed women to legally enlist into the U.S. Coast Guard. This year the Coast Guard is New York City’s Featured Service for Veteran’s Day.
“More than 100 years ago, it was women’s participation in World War I – whether it was taking over men’s jobs on the home front or serving on or near the battlefield – that enabled us to emerge victorious,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who attended the event. “Today’s ceremony ensures those women, and the many who served after them, are always celebrated and never forgotten. There are now more women than ever in the armed forces, and as we honor these eight women in service – including FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh and NYPD Chief Juanita Holmes – we must also acknowledge that we need more women in every sphere of public life. I want to congratulate all honorees. Whether you are an armed forces volunteer or an intelligence officer in the U.S. Space Force, you are an inspiration to all New Yorkers.”
“One hundred years ago, women could not even serve in the US Military, could not even vote,” said Howard Teich, co-founder of the Eastside WWI Centennial Commemoration and one of the event organizers, “and today's ceremony is indicative of the great strides that have been made, with this honoring of women on the front lines of our Armed and uniformed services, and their continuing commitment to our community and country.
“We at the American Red Cross could not be prouder to join this special tribute, now in its fourth year. I want to thank our fellow event organizers for their vision and for shining a light on the women who serve our country, said Gregg Porter, Director, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services, American Red Cross in Greater NY. “I also want to express my appreciation to the countless women--our military service members, our community volunteers, and our public servants, to name a few--who give of themselves to help others.”
Click here for more photos from the event.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCrossNY.