America's oldest female veteran helps other former military women find jobs

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 12:50pm

Good Will of Southern California held a special event Tuesday to promote jobs for veterans and the star of the conference was someone who is believed to be the oldest living female veteran.

Bea Cohen, who came to the United States from Romania at the age of 10 in 1920, is now approaching her 102nd birthday.

When the United States joined World War II, she was all about giving back to her adopted country.

She began the war as one of the hundreds of women who played the role of "Rosie the Riveter," working for Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica.

But this was not enough for her.

When she heard of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, she left the assembly line for the barracks.

When the WAAC was folded into the regular army, she remained in the Women's Army Corps and was even sent overseas.

Now, she's giving back in another way.

She was proud to be one of the women veterans saluted at the Good Will event.

"I think it's wonderful that they're being recognized and that's what I want to see. It's about time," she said.

Good Will held the program to call attention to the number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who need jobs.

Female veterans are having an even tougher time than the men finding jobs.

"I was laid off from Sony almost two years ago and it's taken almost that long to find work," said Mary Gonzales, who served in the army in Vietnam.

The woman who was leading the charge for Good Will was Teri Kelsall, who lost her son, Lt. Commander Jonas Kelsall in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

She wears a button with his picture on her shirt.

"You know, every time he went on deployment, he said, 'if anything happens to me, don't mourn because I love what I do,'" Kelsall said.

Instead, through her work as the Good Will vice president of workforce development, Kelsall has thrown herself into helping others who are leaving the military.

"I realized that they need voices. They're coming back by the droves and we have to get them to work," Kelsall said.

As for Cohen, she has remained a huge supporter of the military and a lifelong volunteer of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States.
 

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