In 2012, after more than three decades of active-duty in the U.S. Army, Maria Vigil retired. She wasn't about to retire from being an active part of her community, but she was struggling to find a group of military veterans who shared her values and sense of patriotism.
In 2012, after more than three decades of active-duty in the U.S. Army, Maria Vigil retired.
She wasn't about to retire from being an active part of her community, but she was struggling to find a group of military veterans who shared her values and sense of patriotism.
As a female veteran, she didn't quite fit in with the normal veteran organizations that were out there.
That was until she attended a women's veterans conference in Jefferson City a year ago.
"There were a lot of women who had been honorably discharged who wanted to continue to serve in some capacity but weren't sure where to begin," said Vigil. "And so we agreed that what we needed was a female chapter of the American Legion."
Many of these female veterans will be coming together this Saturday, Aug. 9, at 9 a.m. at the St. Robert Municipal Center to begin the formation of a local all-women American Legion post.
Vigil began her military career at Fort Leonard Wood and retired 32 years later from this same Army installation.
In between, the South Carolina native served as an engineer, mapmaker and did a tour of duty in Iraq during the war.
As the word has gotten out about Vigil's vision, she has received a lot of positive feedback.
"I have been meeting these women everywhere I go who tell me they too want to talk to other women who have had similar military experiences," she said. "While it is easy to talk about the high moments of a military service, women want to share their unique struggles as well."
Vigil added that some of the unique struggles included sexual harassment as well as being treated differently because they were women.
"They shared that while they were paid the same as their male counterparts, they did not receive the same report card," Vigil said.
All-women American Legion posts already exist in St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia.
"Why not start one in the shadow of one of our nation's finest military installations?" she asked.
Saturday's meeting will include a representative from Jefferson City to give an overview of what needs to be done to get this new group launched.
"It is time for us (women) to come out of the shadows and talk openly with each other," Vigil said. "It is a chance for us to say, 'Hey, I have served this country as honorable as much as my brother next to me. Here I am.' That is what I am after."