The country of Belgium will say "Thank you!" to American women who worked "on the home front" during World War II on Nov. 7, the Saturday before Veterans Day. The event will take place in Berkeley County at Hedgesville High School, at 6:30 p.m. Belgium appears to be the first allied nation to say, "Thank you!" to American Rosie the Riveters.
The event is the result of work by a nonprofit organization Thanks! Plain and Simple, which hires veterans to apply their leadership and team building to work with the public to develop projects that improve their home regions.
"It has always seemed to me that the countries that are so appreciative of America's help during World War II should thank American women who were such significant contributors," said Anne Montague, Founder and Executive Director of Thanks! Plain and Simple. "These women took over the jobs vacated by the men who went to war, and their work was critical to winning World War II. I like the phrase 'on the home front' because so much was sacrificed at home. We are eager to learn how the women in allied nations gave, too."
John Haulotte, an Iraq War veteran who leads outreach for Thanks! Plain and Simple says, "We have had excellent responses from West Virginia Rosie the Riveters and people who care about community. We have identified nearly 100 women, have videotaped at least 20 and are striving for a state-wide collection of their stories on video, CD and in writing. We hope to have a documentary by spring of 2011."
The American Rosie the Riveters Association, in Birmingham, has identified at least 800 Rosies across the nation. Thanks! works with these and identifies and interviews West Virginia women as representative of the extreme commitment that American women showed. Most West Virginia Rosies interviewed went to factories near Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Akron, Detroit, Madison and Santa Barbara, making aircraft and ships. Some went to Washington and worked for leaders.
The only living Medal of Honor Recipient in West Virginia, Hershel "Woody" Williams, says, "We have had excellent cooperation from the Belgian Embassy, with whom we met Oct. 15. They clearly appreciate American Rosie the Riveters and their expression of 'Thank you!' is deeply important to them as well as to us."
Mary Lou Maroney, a Rosie born in rural East Bank, West Virginia, was a riveter at the Detroit Ford Motor plant that converted to airplane manufacturing. "We Rosies are deeply appreciative of Belgium's sincere 'Thank you.' I wish the Rosies we have lost over the 64 years since the end of the war could have received the recognition being shown to us now."
This event will be held Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Robert C. Byrd Center
on the Shepherd University Campus
3 p.m. "Thank you! American Rosies the Riveter" from Belgium to American Rosie the Riveters. (Welcome by Musselman High School Band)
4 p.m. The Press Meets our Rosies and the Belgian Representative, Lieutenant Colonel Martine Dierckx, Assistant Defense, Military, Naval and Air Attache, Embassy of Belgium
7 p.m. Rosies and friends are invited to attend Belles of Berkeley tribute to Rosies, Hedgesville High School.