Female veterans’ auxiliary provides plenty of support services

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

During a lengthy career in the Army, Tifany Hill had stints in Texas, Kentucky and Atlanta. 

Her memories are vivid, but not as much as some of the time she spent in Saudi Arabia and Iraq serving in Desert Storm. 

The role of being a combat medic had many challenges that the Tallahassee native hasn’t forgotten.

“Driving at nights was really difficult; not only to make sure you were on your grid coordinates, but you had to watch to make sure that you were going in a direction where you weren’t running over anybody,” Hill said. “It could be very challenging.”

Hill, who spent a little more than 17 years in the military, has been home for 14 years now. She’s spent the last 18 months as a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 13, helping mostly with public relations for the support organization made up of women who served in the military.

Muriel Kweyama is president of the Sauls-Bridges Unit for female veterans.
Photo special to the Outlook

Hill is one of 87 current members of the Tallahassee Unit.

Muriel Kweyama, president of the Unit, never misses an opportunity to promote the organization’s existence in Tallahassee. Kweyama, a member for the last 10 years, even took her awareness effort to the Veterans Day parade seven years ago.

Recalling how the emphasis has always been on men who served in the military, Kweyama took to the street with a sign that read: “Women are veterans.” 

In fact, the women’s Auxiliary celebrated its 100th anniversary last November. At about the same time, its membership was opened up to men by an act of Congress.

However, Kweyama’s willingness to advocate for female veterans hasn’t waned.

“We are endeavoring to be more visible in the society because a lot of people don’t know about us,” she said. “They are not aware sometimes that we are there.”

Kweyama, who has held other administrative positions in the organization, is tied to the Auxiliary through her brother and former Marine Clarence Alexander. 

Tifany Hill spent more than 17 years in the Army as a combat medic.
Photo special to the Outlook

Like Kweyama, not every member of the Auxiliary is a veteran. Membership for people who haven’t served in the military requires ties to veterans such as being a sibling, mother, grandmother or other relative.

Ive “Nell” Hewitt is president of the Tallahassee district. She is a member of the Auxiliary by virtue of her husband who served a little more than 26 years in the Navy and the Army.

She is also on a constant recruiting mission to add female veterans in the Auxiliary. This month was an especially good time for recruiting, she said.

“March is designated Women’s History Month so in March we try to expand to reach our female veterans,” Hewitt said. “Usually we have a spring luncheon and in the last several years we started inviting not only members but the female veterans who are not members.”

The list of support that the Auxiliary gives veterans is lengthy. It hosts a monthly social event at its meeting place, the Hooch on Lake Ella, puts on school supply drives for children of veterans and hosts an annual Leather and Lace Ball, which had to be postponed from last Saturday because of the coronavirus.

The Auxiliary also puts on two other major events annually – the Stand Down for homeless veterans and a Girls State program.

During the Stand Down, homeless veterans get haircuts and other services that include information on resources that are available to them. The three-day event is held annually at the Fair Grounds.

They also provide assistance for veterans who live in the Home Front Apartments.

The annual Honor Flight for veterans who served in World War II, Korean and Vietnam War is another event that the Auxiliary supports. The turnaround Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., gives veterans the opportunity to see the memorials built in honor of them and other fallen veterans.

“We are excited about providing the services for our veterans,” said Kweyama. “We do it at home and abroad and we enjoy the fellowship.”

The Girls State program gives 300 rising high school seniors from around the state an opportunity to learn the inner workings of government. They reside at FSU and spend their days at the Capitol where they hold a mock election for senators and state representatives. They also learn how to draft legislation.

Nationwide the Auxiliary addresses issues that include drug and alcohol abuse, missing and abused children, teen suicide and teen pregnancy.

The Auxiliary boasts of being the largest women’s patriotic organization in the world with about one million members. Its main headquarters is located in Indianapolis, Indiana, with several districts throughout the country.

Hill said she discovered the Auxiliary by word-of-mouth from a member of the American Legion. She didn’t hesitate to join, especially because of the many support projects that it does for veterans.

 “It’s always a joy to find an organization that finally recognizes female veterans,” Hill said. “It’s a lot of excitement because it’s a place where I could meet other female veterans and even dependents; the spouses and everything.”

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