Virginia Guard Bronze Star recipient honored at Virginia Women in History event

Sgt. Monica Beltran is honored by Shannon Venable (right), vice president for Generation Financial Management at Dominion Virginia Power, during the Virginia Women in History program March 29, at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Beltran is the first woman in the Virginia National Guard to receive the Bronze Star Medal for Valor. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

RICHMOND, Va. — Sgt. Monica Beltran of the Virginia National Guard was honored March 29 at the Virginia Women in History program at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Beltran was one of eight Virginia women recognized by the program for their important contributions to Virginia, the nation and the world.

The Woodbridge resident is the first woman in the Virginia National Guard to receive the Bronze Star Medal for Valor. Beltran received the Bronze Star for her actions on Oct. 26, 2005 while deployed to Iraq with the 1173rd Transportation Company.

“I’m standing here primarily for two reasons,” Beltran said from the stage. “The first reason is because of the training and lessons learned in life from childhood to becoming a proud Soldier in the United States Army. The second reason is due to the bravery, courage, leadership and sacrifice of the Soldiers in my unit.”

Beltran was serving as a gunner for a gun truck on a combat logistics patrol and was responsible for providing security for equipment and 55 Soldiers and contractors being transported to Forward Operating Base Suse. She was on the convoy’s right flank during an enemy attack and returned maximum suppressive fire while taking heavy fire from multiple rounds of small arms, heavy-caliber machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. Despite suffering a wound to her left hand, Beltran continued returning fire to ensure that the rear element of the convoy could pass safely through the mile-long kill zone. For her heroic service in the line of duty under hostile fire and adverse conditions, Beltran was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor on December 30, 2005, the first woman in the Virginia National Guard to receive the honor.

Beltran was introduced during the program by Shannon Venable, vice president  for Generation Financial Management at Dominion Virginia Power.

“There was a job to do and the convoy needed protection. Both male and female Soldiers were under attack that day,” Beltran recounted in her speech. “Without the entire patrol’s effort and the ultimate sacrifice which was laid down by my friends, I would not be here today.

“I am forever grateful for what they have done. I carry their memory with me on this stage, standing proud to be a daughter, a sergeant, a woman and a Soldier.”

Beltran was nominated for the recognition by John Listman of the Virginia National Guard Historical Collection at Fort Pickett.

Sgt. Monica Beltran is a member of the 1710th Transportation Company and received the Bronze Star for her actions on Oct. 26, 2005 while deployed to Iraq with the 1173rd Transportation Company. The 2012 Virginia Women in History program recognized eight outstanding Virginia women who have made important contributions to Virginia, nation and the world. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The program was a reunion of sorts as a number of friends and family members were there to celebrate Beltran’s heroics.  In addition, Brig. Gen. Janice Igou, director of interagency operations for the Virginia National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Wayne Wright, Deputy Adjutant General for the Virginia National Guard, were among those on hand for the program.

“I’m honored to be here and it’s great to have so many friends and family members here to support me,” Beltran said.

Among the people there to celebrate Beltran’s honor was Joseph Cormier, a former Virginia National Guard Soldier who deployed with Beltran to Iraq.

“I was honored to know her and be her friend,” Cormier said. “She got the Bronze Star for that day but it was a whole year of effort.”

Cormier saw first-hand how male and female Soldiers worked together, conducting missions side by side around the clock.

“I’m proud that my 10 years in the Virginia National Guard was at a time when women were not second class Soldiers,” Cormier said. “Commanders and first-line leaders were women and it was never an issue of gender. It was mission first.”

Beltran was one of eight Virginians honored at the program and one of only three who are living. Among the other honorees were Elizabeth Peet McIntosh, an intelligence agent with the Office of Strategic Services in World War II who now lives in Woodbridge, and Judith Shatin, a composer from Charlottesville.

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Photos of Sgt. Monica Beltran being honored at the Virginia Women in History program on Flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157629701617491