LAKE WALES, Fla. — Lake Wales veteran Kathryn “Kat” Gates-Skipper, 62, will be the first female Marine to be inducted into the Florida Veteran’s Hall of Fame.
- Gates-Skipper currently a veteran's advocate
- Served 20 years active duty and reserves
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“I’m still in shock and all," Gates-Skipper told us, referencing the nomination. "I do things because it’s just my nature. I don’t expect anything. To be nominated by Representative Mike La Rosa, it’s a great honor, that people respect me and appreciate what I do for veterans."
Gates-Skipper served active duty and in the reserves for the United States Marine Corps for 20 years. She said she’s proud to have led the way for women in the military.
“Even back in my days, women going into the military, we still had to fight with things," she explained. "They thought we were only in there to find a man, but no — we want to serve. We’re patriots and we want to serve our country too and we’re proud.”
During her time in the service, she helped integrate genders within the Marine Corps.
“We had an operation where we stayed overnight in the field," Gates-Skipper said. "I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, so I was part of that. So I was the first woman Marine to stay overnight in the field."
She also served in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, making sure the families of Marines who died in combat received all of their belongings from the battlefield.
“That job was very, very important for the simple reason that loved ones wanted anything that we could find, all the way down to a ballpoint pen,” she said.
More recently, she’s served as a veteran’s advocate, making sure vets get the medical care they deserve.
“I was in a great organization called CVA — Concerned Veterans for America. We went to Washington DC a lot to advocate for veterans rights. So I helped pass the first VA Accountability Act of 2014 during that time and I’m glad to do that. I helped President Trump with our [VA] Mission Act [of 2018] that we just passed."
She hopes her dedication to the military and veterans serves as an example to the younger generation of service members coming up through the ranks.