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SIOUX CITY -- Fifteen veterans and their family members convened at the Betty Strong Encounter Center on Sioux City's riverfront on Wednesday to observe the closing of the exhibit, "Serving Her Country: Women in the Military."

The exhibit, a joint project with the Sioux City Journal, had been in place since Veterans Day, 2017; it featured portraits that initially ran in the Journal to accompany Journal stories on women who had served in the Armed Forces from World War II though current conflicts in the Middle East. The photos greeted tens of thousands of visitors to the Betty Strong Encounter Center and the adjacent Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center over the past seven months.

"It was amazing to see the breadth of veterans included," said Cynthia Aden, a U.S. Army veteran who currently serves as Clay County Veterans Service Officer in Vermillion, South Dakota. "There were so many eras covered and the experiences (in military duty) was so different."

There were World War II code-breakers as well as nurses, truck drivers, cooks, hospital administrators, office personnel and more. They served in all corners of the world, in every military branch, and came home to raise families, start businesses and grow their communities.

Marjorie Culligan, of Sheldon, Iowa, laughed about being able to share the story of her World II service at the age of 94. She'd been asked to decades earlier, at a time when she was teaching fourth-graders in Wisconsin, in the early 1950s.

"A reporter in Wisconsin called me to ask me about my service in World War II," said Culligan. "I couldn't do it then because of security concerns. What I'd been doing (cryptography for the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C.) was considered top-secret. I wasn't allowed to talk about it."

Culligan was recalled and served during the Korean War as well, working as a quartermaster at Pearl Harbor.

One of eight children in her family to serve in the military, Culligan said she was honored at this point in her life to share details of her service as part of the exhibit. Like the other 20 women featured, Journal Chief Photographer Tim Hynds, presented Culligan with her portrait after talking briefly about the way in which he shot her photo.

Hynds joined Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal columnist, in describing what this series, the third of its kind for the newspaper, meant to the newspaper's readers and its staff.

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