Brainerd residents Patricia Wing and Sherri Beaupre are making history.
They are believed to be the first two women to be part of Brainerd’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Color Guard. The Color Guard consists of veterans who carry and protect the national colors and other flags, such as Army, Marines, Navy or Air Force and also carries rifles to guard the colors. The Color Guard performs the 21-gun salute and conducts full military honors at funerals. The Color Guard can be seen marching in parades and at various memorial service events.
Traditionally, the VFW Color Guard in Brainerd has been men. Women have been involved with the VFW for many years in the organization, specifically with the VFW Women’s Auxiliary.
Shawn Thayer of the VFW said having women serve on the Color Guard has nothing to do with their gender and all to do with them being veterans. Thayer said traditionally men mainly served on the Color Guard, but the VFW has been pushing for more members and “that is how it came about. It’s great to have the women serve on the Color Guard.”
Thayer said having women on the Color Guard also came about, simply due to the cycle of life. Thayer said many members of the VFW are older because they have the time, since the younger generation is busy with family life. Thayer said more women have joined the military over the last few decades and they are now joining the VFW.
Thayer said there are 24-25 people on the Color Guard.
“It’s sad because we lose one of them every year,” said Thayer. “It’s good to see the younger members be a part of the Color Guard.”
Wing, 59, of rural Brainerd has been involved in the VFW since 1996, doing the organization’s book work.
Wing was in the Army from 1971-74, where she was a military police officer. She spent one year in Korea, which is how she qualified to become a member of the VFW. She is a lifetime member.
Wing said her father was in the Army for three years during the Korean War era, but he never had orders to serve overseas.
Wing has always been a military service person and wanted to join the Color Guard, but traditionally it’s been a “men’s field.” Wing could’ve joined the Women’s Auxiliary, but said if she was going to join a Color Guard it would with the VFW.
“I always thought it’d be nice to provide military services at funerals,” said Wing. “Veterans deserve to have military honors. It’s neat and it has to be done right.
“I’ve always been proud of the military and always been fascinated by the uniforms.”
Beaupre, 53, Brainerd, has always been proud of the military and she comes from a military family. Her father was in the Navy, her sister was in the Army and her first husband and her son were in the Air Force.
Beaupre was in the Air Force from 1977-81. She also served in the Air National Guard and the Active Guard Reserve, and served one year in Korea. Beaupre said she was an administration specialist and she played basketball for the women’s traveling Combined Forces Team.
“My dad thought the military would be a good opportunity for me and allow me to get my education,” said Beaupre.
Beaupre donates her time twice a week where she bartends at the VFW. She also serves as the adjutant for the VFW Post.
Beaupre said many of the VFW members have seen so much at war — more than she and Beaupre.
“I’m proud and honored to serve our vets,” said Beaupre. “I want to help our vets ... The uniforms are nice but the bottom line is our veterans. And the Color Guard does a great job.”