by Victoria Shapiro

Wearing their Navy covers, some in blue suits, and one even in her old Navy uniform – five of the first women to serve in the Navy, the WAVES, came together at our client the Sea Service Leadership Association’s recent Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium – to share their stories of service with D.C. ABC affiliate, WJLA’s “Working Women” segment. A two-day military women mentoring event, the largest gathering of military women in the world, the Symposium brings generations of women together who have fought battles on and off the field in interesting and inspiring ways. Hearing the stories of the WAVES women was a powerful experience and a wonderful addition to this year’s program.

Now in their 80’s and 90’s, Elizabeth Robinson, Marie Cush, Arlene Howard, Gladys Felice and Gladys Hoffmire Martin were at the Symposium to be honored and recognized during a special luncheon for their service. The WAVES, an acronym for “women accepted for volunteer emergency service,” were a host of women who served during World War II with the understanding that at the war’s completion, they would not be permitted to continue Navy careers. Now, women are a critical component of all our military services. Navy members attending the luncheon ranged from junior enlistees to senior flag officers. Observing the conversations and sharing between the older and younger generations was a neat part of the event. One of the WAVES nudged me and exclaimed how excited she was to have sat next to an admiral.

At the end of the luncheon, these five women gathered and were accompanied by a crew of adoring relatives, admiring enlisted Navy women, and the WJLA camera crew to make the long haul to the green room where we would do the taping. Walking very slowly, with one WAVE being pushed in a wheelchair, we made a lengthy procession through the hallways of the Gaylord in National Harbor, Md., where the event took place.

When we arrived in the green room, and the cameras started rolling, it was wonderful to see how engaged and excited everyone was. In addition to the five WAVES, members of their families, Navy women who attended the luncheon and others watched as WJLA interviewed each woman. One Navy enlistee noted that she was missing the rest of her day’s engagements because of how special the opportunity to observe was. All seated in the green room had a sense of how meaningful the moment was for the WAVES, and for the sharing of history. Check out the story here.

With participants such as Assistant to President Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama Tina Tchen; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy; and Maj. Allison Black, AKA “The Angel of Death,” the first female AC-130H Spectre navigator to open fire in combat operations; the Symposium provided so many opportunities to tell great stories, such as that of the WAVES. I’m pleased that we helped tell those stories.

From top tier civilian media outlets such as The Washington Post, People Magazine, PBS, the ABC, NBC and Fox D.C. affiliates, to military audience focused outlets including the Pentagon Channel and Stars and Stripes – media turnout for the event was overwhelming.

Working with clients and reporters to bring stories together; finding and/or producing golden opportunities and working hard to leverage them; creating meaningful experiences for people while heightening a client’s visibility – are all key parts of what makes our job such an interesting, dynamic and rewarding challenge.