Kern County has a reputation for supporting its veterans, so it’s not surprising there are so many organizations that have been created to serve them. What you may not know is that many of them were started by and are run by women.
While traditionally the military has been seen as a man’s world, it’s the women in their lives who have led the way in providing support services for them.
California Pinups and Patriots, founded by Ramona Dolan and Shelley Coffey, strives to bring awareness to those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, holding a candlelight vigil each June. They also help veterans suffering with PTSD find resources and treatment.
Their eye-catching retro style brings positive attention to the causes they champion, and many of the ladies dress that way every day, said Coffey of the ’40s- and ’50s-style clothing the members wear.
“It brings to mind an era when patriotism was alive and well and our military and veterans were respected,” she said.
One of their biggest events is their annual Wings and Wheels fundraiser, which will take place on Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Minter Field Air Museum.
Another local organization is The Wounded Heroes Fund, started 10 years ago by Wendy Porter. In the beginning, the main focus was on helping post-9/11 veterans who had a service-related injury. However, over the past five years, the program has expanded to offer a variety of services to veterans and their families, including financial workshops and couples retreats. Their goal is to create opportunities for veterans to build relationships with others like them, who understand what they’ve been through.
“When they come home, a lot of them will isolate themselves because they feel like no one understands them,” said Porter. “When they are able to spend time with other veterans, it helps them reconnect because they speak the same language.”
Their upcoming fundraiser, the Soaring with Heroes Hangar Party, will take place on the evening of Nov. 2 at Minter Field.
Wounded Heroes also works in conjunction with Honor Flight Kern County, sponsoring one or two wounded heroes on almost every flight, said LiLi Marsh, who founded the local chapter in 2012. They have taken between 1,600 and 1,700 veterans to the WWII and Vietnam memorials to date.
When she first heard about Honor Flight, which originated in Ohio, she thought: “We can do that here! Let’s do it!”
“I feel like there are so many people that work so hard at making this happen; they’re all responsible for changing lives. Nobody comes back without being changed,” said Marsh.
“This town is really unique in the way we treat our veterans. I feel like since we’ve been flying, (the) town has really rallied around (our veterans), because of (these) organizations.”
Although each organization provides different services, they all work together to meet the needs of our local veterans.
The Armed Services Support Fund focuses on providing for the immediate needs of veterans while they’re waiting for other services to come through. Founded by Jenny Patton and her husband, Ben, in 2013, both veterans themselves, they have provided wheelchairs, clothes and shoes for veterans starting new jobs, bus passes to get them to college, help with utility bills, even a stove for a veteran whose unit had quit working two days before Thanksgiving.
“A lot of people want to get involved in helping vets and want to see where it’s going,” said Jenny. “When we involve people, they get the same satisfaction we do because they’re involved in the donation. That’s the beauty of this community – it’s amazing when you look at it – I don’t think that’s typical for most places and most nonprofits, it’s pretty empowering. We’ve worked together for years, which says a lot about (the) women (in) this community.” ￼