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Massachusetts officials recognize women in military

BOSTON — Massachusetts officials paid special tribute Sunday to women who’ve served in the military during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Statehouse in Boston.

The tribute was led by Col. Andrea Gayle-Bennett, a physician’s assistant who has served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard for more than 28 years. She is the recipient of the Massachusetts Women Veteran Network’s 2011 Deborah Sampson Award, which honors the outstanding female veteran of the year.

Officials also remembered military members who have been held prisoner or remain missing during a candle-lighting ceremony led by retired Navy Cmdr. and former prisoner of war Tim Sullivan and Maureen Dunn of the National League of Families of POW/MIA. Another tribute with rose presentations was paid to Gold Star families.

Gov. Deval Patrick, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and Department of Veterans’ Services Secretary Coleman Nee were among the state officials who honored past and present members of the military on Sunday.

“Today we express our gratitude, pride and support for the Massachusetts military personnel who protect our interests around the world,” Patrick said. “This Veterans Day we acknowledge all veterans’ dedication and service as we reinforce our commitment to making opportunities and resources available to the Massachusetts men and women who have served and continue to serve us.”

State officials said Massachusetts leads the nation in providing benefits and services to veterans and their families. The state sets aside more than $60 million a year to help veterans and their dependents with food, shelter, medical care and other services. It also provides $21 million more in annuity payments for disabled veterans and Gold Star families.

Among the special guests at Sunday’s ceremony was Stephan Ross of Boston, a Holocaust survivor who was freed from the Dachau concentration camp by American soldiers in 1945.

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