First female combat veteran selected for Florida Hall of Fame

Julia LeDoux
October 04, 2019 - 11:27 am
Kathryn Gates-Skipper

Photo courtesy of Rep. Mike La Rosa

Marine veteran Kathryn Gates-Skipper saw combat during Desert Storm and now serves as a veterans’ advocate.

She’s also about to become the third woman and first female combat Marine to be inducted into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

“I’m still pinching myself to make sure this is not a dream,” she wrote on Facebook. “I love my home state of Florida. Helping veterans and others just comes natural. That’s how I was raised.”

State Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, nominated Gates-Skipper for the honor.

 “Simply put, Kat helped pave the way for other women to serve our nation through her outstanding example of bravery, leadership and dedication,” La Rosa said in a news release.

Gates-Skipper, 61, served in the Marines from 1975 to 1994. La Rosa noted she was among the first women to serve in combat training, helping to train female Kuwaiti soldiers during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

During her time in the Marines, Gates-Skipper was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, SW Asia Service Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Overseas Service Military Ribbon, the Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Marine Corps League Distinguished Service Award, the State of Florida Governor’s Veteran Award, the American Legion Veteran of the Year Award and other commendations, according to La Rosa.

Kathryn Gates-Skipper
Photo courtesy of Rep. Mike La Rosa

Gates-Skipper told The Ledger that she’s all about veterans

“I was born on a military base, raised in a military family,” she said.

 All of her immediate family are veterans as well.

 A volunteer for Concerned Veterans of America, she eventually became the group’s Central Florida field service director and helped pave the way for passage of the VA Accountability Act of 2014. She is also a life member of American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Marine Corps League, according to the paper. Gates-Skipper also lobbied for the passage of the VA Mission Act.

She told the newspaper that her mission to help veterans began 18 years ago, while she was helping her husband, Charles Skipper, collect benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder. A Vietnam veteran, he had two Purple Hearts.

The Hall of Fame is located in Tallahassee. Gates-Skipper will join retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Herlena O’Neal Washington and retired Navy Capt. Capt. Jeanne Grushinski Rubin in the Hall.

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Reach Julia LeDoux: Julia@connectingvets.com

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