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Honoring Veterans: Navy Veteran Verna Fender

This week’s Honoring Veterans Spotlight honors the service of Navy Veteran Verna Fender, who served during and after the Korean War.

Fender was born to Margaret and Ben Tabet, and graduated from Los Lunas High School. She later attended Albuquerque Business College and the University of New Mexico, and was a member of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. She joined the Navy during the Korean War, and would quickly face adversity in her service as she was severely injured during basic training in Bainbridge, Maryland. After being sent to a hospital for rehabilitation, she showed strength and courage by returning to Bainbridge to complete basic training. She was assigned to the Naval Training Center (NTC) in San Diego, California, where she served for three years in the Departments of Berthing and Sectioning, Supply and Ordnance. 

Fender received a National Defense Service medal and a Good Conduct Medal for her service. She made lifelong friends during her time in the Navy and afterwards became a charter member of Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA), Roadrunner Unit Four of the WAVES, a member of Disabled American Veterans and Ladies Auxiliary V.F.W. 401. As a Native American, she was part of a long line of Native American women serving in the U.S. military between the American Revolution and Vietnam War.

Before and after her military service, Fender held various positions in different fields, including employment at her family’s business at Isleta Pueblo and as a cosmetology instructor at Academy Beauty School. She also worked at Albuquerque National Bank, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of New Mexico, the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute’s (SIPI) Personnel Department, and the Records Department of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Fender’s final job was as a medical transcriptionist with the local VA Medical Center before retiring in 1983. 

A resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, she was married to James Fender and had a son, Gregory, who preceded her in death, and a daughter, Tammy. She also had two step-children, Edna and Dan, and eight grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Fender died in January 2004 after a long battle with cancer. Throughout her life, she was known for her strength, courage, kindness and generosity.

We honor her service.

Nominate a Veteran for Honoring Veterans

Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s Honoring Veterans social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to ne******@va.gov with as much information as you can put together, along with some good photos. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.

Writer: William Beterbide

Editors: Lillian Williams, Tayler Rairigh

Researchers: Charmonie Baugh, Kelsey Burchard

Graphic Designer: Alyssa Favorito

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