- Associated Press - Sunday, November 15, 2020

DOVER, Del. (AP) - The Battlin’ Betties, with their 1940s and ’50s-era attire, bright red lipstick and throwback hairstyles, look like they just climbed off the nose of a vintage World War II airplane or out of a footlocker of an Army soldier.

That’s the idea.

When they visit veterans and first responders or appear at community events, they like to take the people back to a different time, one when many of the veterans were still young, just starting their military careers or heading off to war. The accompanying swing-style music that plays when they are around just adds to the ambiance for the pinup girl throwback encounters.

Lia Mendoza is the original Battlin’ Bettie of the Delaware platoon, one of 25 such platoons across the United States.

She formed the group, which operates out of Dover, back in February, and she and the 16 other “Betties” - most of whom are military spouses, active duty or a combination of both - have taken several events by storm, even though it has admittedly been difficult to interact with people during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Mrs. Mendoza’s husband, an airman at Dover Air Force Base, was deployed earlier this year, and that’s when the idea of a Battlin’ Betties Delaware platoon came to life.

“I just came (to Dover) from the United Kingdom,” Mrs. Mendoza said. “My husband is active duty and is currently deployed, and I had been looking for something to join. I had wanted to get involved in my community and everything once I got back to the States, and I had seen Battlin’ Betties in a different state. I was looking to see where they had them and, unfortunately, they didn’t have (a platoon) here in Delaware.

“So I got a hold of the CEO, and I was like, ‘Hey, can I get one started in Delaware?’ They told me, ‘Sure, let’s do this.’ I pretty much got started and filled out all my paperwork and got accepted as a leader. Then, I hit Facebook to see if there was anybody else interested - like-minded girls who might be interested in joining - and lo and behold, there were.”

The Delaware Battlin’ Betties appeared at their first event Feb. 22, when they visited the Delaware Veterans Home in Milford. They met with a group of 20 local veterans and their families.

Many remembered the 1950s-era style, glad to see the Betties bringing back the look and happy to have friendly faces to talk to.

Jessica Salter, another member of the Betties, said it was a very memorable event, both for the veterans and for the group, which was still in its infancy.

“They enjoyed it,” Mrs. Salter said of the veterans. “It doesn’t necessarily take them back to that time, but it reminds them of the fun that they had … the parties and dancing and getting dressed up and taking a girl out and doing some swing dancing, enjoying time with your friends - not necessarily talking war stories, but maybe gloat a little bit about all the things that you did.

“They enjoy seeing us and love hearing us and sharing those stories and the good times that they had with us. They even enjoy the look of it, even the family members with the spouses and their children really enjoyed seeing us dressed up that way, and it took them back, as well. They were like, ‘Oh, I remember when I used to wear my hair like this,’ or the red lipstick. I actually got some beauty tips from one of the spouses that I had met.”

The Battlin’ Betties didn’t let the onslaught of COVID-19 slow them down in March, as they pulled out sewing machines and spent more than 144 hours making 512 face masks, which were donated to military members, veterans and first responders.

They also volunteered and did some outside work, helping clean up the kitchen and set up the banquet hall to meet COVID-19 protocols at the American Legion Post 2 in Dover on June 14.

They appeared at Vet Fest in Middletown on Sept. 26, where they pinned red, white and blue ribbons on veterans, handed out baseballs decorated by local children, manned the “Honor the Fallen” board and presented medals to the runners of the 10K and 5K races.

Finishing out the year, the Delaware Battlin’ Betties are volunteering with Wreaths Across America to lay wreaths at Barratt’s Chapel cemetery in Frederica to remember and honor veterans.

The goal is to reach 2,000 wreaths donated by Nov. 29. On Dec. 19 at noon, the Delaware Battlin’ Betties will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the cemetery, where there are 1,000 veteran graves. The women hope to place 1,000 more wreaths at other area cemeteries.

The Battlin’ Betties is much more than a bunch of pretty faces. The organization supports programs that include community outreach, PTSD and suicide awareness, retreat travel sponsorship and “Mended Hearts,” a support program for caregivers.

Mrs. Mendoza said the mission of Battlin’ Betties is to honor and serve the nation’s military, veterans, first responders and their families by supporting and creating unique programs and events that will inspire the nation, foster patriotism and raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention.

They are also out in the community throwing birthday parties for veterans and first responders, taking them homemade treats and gifts, hosting fundraisers and special events, scrubbing headstones and laying wreaths.

Mrs. Mendoza said she can’t wait until her Delaware platoon can get back to events such as the one at the Delaware Veterans Home in February.

“It was awesome,” she said. “They were actually really excited to see us dressed in the time period clothes and were interested in talking and interested that we cared to listen to their stories and so forth. It was awesome. I wish we could go back. We had time period-era music going on in the background and stuff while we talked to them, and it was really fun.

“Now that the state’s starting to open up a little bit (from COVID-19 restrictions), we were able to do Vet Fest, and we just keep trying to find ways to be involved.”

Mrs. Salter can’t wait for her next appearance as a Battlin’ Bettie.

“I love the time period clothing. I can’t deny that,” she said. “I really love and enjoy advocating for our military families. I’m a veteran myself. I’m also a military spouse, and I do a lot as far as advocating for our military children with special needs, so it just seems natural to also encompass our veterans in that, as well, into things that I do to speak out on issues that are involving them.”

DEL. BATTLIN BETTIES TO PARTICIPATE IN GIVING TUESDAY

It was eight years ago when three military spouses from different branches of service made the decision to go global and inspire 1 million acts of kindness by establishing the inaugural Giving Tuesday Military Edition.

Giving Tuesday - which takes place the Tuesday following Thanksgiving - was established in 2012 with one goal in mind: to make generosity go viral. The global day of giving, set for Dec. 1 this year, is designed to inspire charitable giving to organizations that are change makers in their communities, but also stimulate collaboration and volunteerism.

Mrs. Mendoza will be facilitating kindness efforts in Dover and the surrounding areas to encourage and assist those looking to join the movement with ideas of how to give back and get involved. She will be making hats as part of the Battlin’ Betties’ donation to Giving Tuesday.

The challenge to military service members, families (including Gold Star) and veterans is to complete 1 million acts of kindness and share a photo, video or post of their act through social media channels with #GivingTuesdayMilitary.

“These acts of kindness can be small but give members of the military community an opportunity to connect with each other and the communities we live in,” Mrs. Mendoza said. “The opportunities are limitless and could be as simple as buying a cup of coffee for a stranger, leaving a kind note on a car windshield or simply sharing a hug with someone who needs it.”

In addition, “our platoon is taking donations of new and used coats, new socks and new and used blankets to be donated to a veterans’ organization that helps homeless vets in the state of Delaware,” she said.

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