Women Veterans Day Trailblazing Celebration at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
Celebrating the 76th Anniversary of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act

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On Saturday, June 15, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge held a celebration in honor of the 76th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. Co-hosted by the refuge, the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the inaugural event featured speakers, booths with information about military benefits for women, trail walks, crafts, and other activities. 

Cheng Carr, the refuge’s administrative officer, is a battalion logistics officer for the Oregon Army National Guard. Prior to joining the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carr deployed twice with the U.S. Army as a medic.

“While I would not trade my military experience for anything, I found myself regularly in need of TLCs [rest] to continue to be a good provider and a caretaker to my kids,” Carr said. “I want to offer everyone here the resources available to our wonderful local urban wildlife refuge. It is a refuge not only for the native flora and fauna, but also a refuge for you, who in many cases paid dearly to serve this country.”

Nearly 50 people attended the event, including many women veterans and their families. Booths at the refuge provided information about suicide prevention and health care tailored for women veterans. Children were busy at craft tables making friendship bracelets and decorating bags, and Service employees, Friends group board members and volunteers led four nature walks around the refuge.

“This event is pretty awesome,” said Stephanie Falkenberg, a U.S. Airforce veteran. “I think it’s really cool to have so many veterans out here just advocating that the refuge is not just a refuge for wildlife but a refuge for people...this place is a super special place in my heart and being able to come out here and get peace and time away is really just a great escape.”

Signed by President Harry S. Truman in 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act allowed women to serve as regular members in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. On May 30, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek declared June 18-22, 2024, LGBTQ+ Veterans Awareness Week. According to the proclamation, an estimated 6% of Oregon’s veteran population identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community. At the beginning of the event, Carr read the proclamation out loud.

Ashley Taylor, a veteran of the Army and representative of Portland Veterans Affairs suicide prevention team and community engagement, shared that she really appreciated events like Tualatin’s because of the opportunity for connection.

“Since I am a woman veteran myself, I love events like this mostly because I get to hang out with other woman veterans and build a sisterhood when we’re out,” Taylor said.

Andrea Salinas, the U.S. congressional representative for Oregon’s 6th District, wrote a letter to those who attended the event. Salinas extended her greetings to everyone at the refuge and honored the 76th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.

“To the woman veterans here with us today: thank you,” Salinas wrote. “Your dedication inspires us, your commitment is the foundation of our democracy, and your stories remind us of the true cost of freedom.”

In 2019, former Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared June 12 as Women’s Veterans Day. It was the first time in Oregon history that women veterans were honored by a proclamation. 

“It’s really exciting to be able to put on something like this,” said Carr. “It’s great to be able to give female veterans the recognition we deserve.”

The event was free, and all women veterans, family members, guests and supporters were welcome.

Located about 40 minutes outside Portland, Oregon, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge protects prime habitat for more than 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, plants, and insects. Visitors can hear the bright call of songbirds in the spring, Arctic nesting birds in the fall, and broods of wood ducks and hooded mergansers in the wetlands in the summer. Up to 50,000 waterfowl may visit the refuge in the winter, including Canada geese, northern pintail, and mallards, to eat seeds and plants. 

Visitors can hike on two different trails than wind through a diversity of habitat. There are plenty of opportunities for bird and wildlife watching and photography, and ranger and volunteer-led programs. The refuge also hosts a waterfowl hunt for youth ages 17 and younger at its Riverboat unit. 

For more information about the refuge, please visit the Service’s Tualatin River National Wildlife Service website.

For more information on suicide prevention for veterans, please visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs suicide prevention webpage.

Story Tags

Education outreach
Urban refuge
Wildlife refuges

Recreational Activities