Stephany Hartstirn

Courtesy of Stephany Hartstirn

Stephany Hartstirn was honored during the Pennsylvania Commission for Women’s Female Veterans Day Celebration.

Stephany Hartstirn admits she is quite humbled about the latest honor she has received.

The Bethel Park resident was selected to be honored at the Pennsylvania Commission for Women’s Female Veterans Day celebration March 31 at the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg as part of Women’s History Month.

The ceremony is hosted annually by Gov. Tom Wolf, first lady Frances Wolf and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women to honor women from across the commonwealth representing every branch of the armed services for their brave service and selfless contributions to Pennsylvania and to the nation.

March 31, 2022, was declared by proclamation and resolution as “Female Veterans Day” in Pennsylvania to salute the 71,000 female veterans living in the commonwealth.

“It’s always very humbling to be honored in this way after almost 30 years of military service,” Hartstirn said. “It brings a lot of pride, but it’s also very humbling.”

Hartstirn, 57, is a captain (Capt-06) in the U.S. Navy Reserve. She enlisted in 1992 and was commissioned in 1994. Hartstirn currently serves as a Navy Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer for the state of Wisconsin. She has earned a number of awards and accommodations during her time in the military.

Hartstirn served in Afghanistan in 2007-2008 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, during which said she took part in humanitarian aid missions that included building schools and building infrastructure in villages.

“At the time, it was the largest nongovernmental humanitarian-aid mission,” Hartstirn said. “It was amazing to work that closely with the Afghan National Army to get food, clothing, school supplies and pretty much everything we could get passed out to these displaced persons.”

Hartstirn also served in Iraq in 2010 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Her interest in serving stemmed from a friend whose husband was stationed in the Navy in Annapolis, Md., leading to Hartstirn spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C.

“I saw all of the Vietnam War memorials and I asked myself, ‘If I had been of age at this time, is this something I would have done?’” Hartstirn said. “I felt like that answer was yes, so I began to pursue a reserve commission at that point.”

Hartstirn was nominated for the honor by Pittsburgh resident Polly Bozdech-Veater, a retired naval captain, who said she nominated Hartstirn because of her service.

“She has just done a fabulous job as a supply corps officer and recruiting and in her several activations and mobilizations to Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Bozdech-Veater. “Just listening to her talk about those experiences is very impressive. She really represents the Navy Reserve in a great light.”

Bozdech-Veater was selected for the honor several years ago, she said.

In the days beforehand, Hartstirn said she was looking forward to the ceremony.

“I think it will be wonderful to have the opportunity to meet other female veterans who have served,” she said. “I always find it interesting to hear their stories and learn more about them and why they chose whatever branch of service they chose.”

Hartstirn said she hopes to retire from the military in April 2023. But these last three decades for her have been very rewarding, especially her time in Afghanistan and Iraq, where her mission was focused on women and children.

“We don’t understand what it’s like to live in a third-world country,” Hartstirn said. “Nothing prepared me to go to Afghanistan. To have that opportunity to help in some small way has really been rewarding. I’ve met some wonderful people.”

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