Group seeks new WAVES

Sandi Niccum is blind, but she's leading the charge for a group of local women veterans with a vision to boost its membership and continue providing volunteers for veterans hospitals, homes and services at the Boulder City cemetery.

For more than three years, she has been president of the WAVES National, Nevada Gems Unit No. 146, a group of about two dozen women veterans, most of whom served during World War II or the Korean and Vietnam war eras.

Because the group's membership continues to grow older, the drive to fill the ranks is becoming urgent, she said Thursday.

"We lost so many. Just last year we lost five," the 73-year-old retired medic said.

Niccum's blindness stems from diabetes she developed during her fifth year on active duty with the Navy Medical Corps as a Marine stationed at Beaufort Memorial Hospital at Paris Island, S.C.

With no history of diabetes in her family, her disability was deemed to be service-connected at the time of her honorable discharge in 1958.

In the decades that followed, she never let her blindness keep her from volunteering to help others who were blind and veterans who grappled with other disabilities and illnesses.

Her dedication continued last week as she presided over the quarterly meeting Thursday of the National WAVES -- Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service -- Nevada Gems Unit No. 146 meeting.

On Friday, she and others from the group visited O'Callaghan Federal Hospital at Nellis Air Force Base to deliver "care favors," she said, or items to help hospitalized veterans endure their stays.

The group works with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide volunteers for VA programs.

"You always do whatever they call for you," she said. "We always look for women who need help, mostly veterans at nursing homes."

During the annual standdown for homeless veterans, one of the group's volunteers spent days helping with the program in which everything from dental care, haircuts and clothes are offered to the vets.

The group also collected and delivered gifts for 180 patients at the veterans nursing home in Boulder City.

Members of Nevada Gems also attend memorial services for homeless vets who are buried at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

While the group is composed primarily of women veterans who served in the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, those who served in the Army and Air Force are welcome to join as associate members.

To become a member, contact Niccum at 658-6323.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at or 702-383-0308.