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Veterans Day Special: Paying it forward to women vets

Angela Nelson from Mountain America Credit Union presents $500 to Mitzi Cheldelin for her work establishing a network of women veterans.

A Special Veterans Day Pay It Forward goes to Mitzi Cheldelin, who not only is forming a network for women veterans in the Treasure Valley. "Sometimes I feel that when they come back and they are no longer in uniform that they are forgotten,” said Cheldelin. “People say, 'Thank your husband for their service.' - That sort of thing, and forget that women are out there serving too."

Cheldelin is also the inspiration behind a push to establish a memorial to women vets.

Benjamin Victor is the artist commissioned to do the sculpture. The name of his work is “The Promise.” It’s refers to the vow among soldiers to watch out for one another, to “have each other’s six.” Victor explained, “When they go off to serve, they don't know if they'll come back or not. So even if they never see combat, there's that fear, that apprehension and leaning on that promise of that fellow soldier.”

Victor’s clay model of depicts one soldier comforting another who is taking her last breath.

“This project is about honoring women who have served,” said Erin Askew, who is spearheading the memorial project. “When you first look at it you see combat, but this is deeper.

“When I joined, I had a 3-year old daughter. I was never in combat, but I was injured on active duty. I didn't come home the same person. Because of that her life was tremendously affected.”

Askew said all the money for the memorial will be raised from private sources. “Our goal is to raise $200,000. I've seen projects that cost a lot more that have a lot less significance. So, I think $200,000 for a something this significant is very small. I think it is the least that we owe our soldiers in general.”

Speaking specifically about women in the military, she said, “I feel like their stories are not loud enough. They're not being heard.

For her, the larger-than-life memorial will be a way of amplifying their voices and reaffirming that they still have each other’s six.

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