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Makeovers give veterans a boost

On most days, Denise Williams, 50, of Central Islip, is more concerned about taking care of veterans at her job in the Medical Support Center at the Northport VA Medical Center than maintaining her beauty regimen. But on Monday, she got a makeover, compliments of Cactus Salon & Day Spa in Stony Brook.

Williams was a truck driver during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. She is a third-generation U.S. Army veteran, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather.

Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Williams takes each day in stride.

“I will never forget seeing and smelling the dead bodies,” she said.

The event was supported by Shining Service Worldwide, a special project of the Long Island United Veterans Beacon House. The program rewarded a total of 12 military women at the salon with a complete beauty makeover, including hair and nails primping, makeup and accessories.

“Most women put themselves at the bottom of the priority list. This makeover sets them up to feel good about themselves,” said Shining Service Founder Linda Franklin.

“The makeovers make a fantastic impact on their lives. It completely uplifts their spirits,” added United Veterans Beacon House Executive Director Frank Amalfitano.

Makeover recipient Dianna Contreras, 39, of Bay Shore was a heavy construction equipment mechanic specialist in the U.S. Army during Desert Storm. Her mother took care of her son, who is now 20, while she was in the military. Contreras, who is currently the marketing director at Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Smithtown, said she was thankful for the support.

After the makeover, the women were invited to become a part of the three-month online mentoring program that features 10 experts in 10 areas that help the military women deal with the challenges they may face in their everyday lives. Each woman will have their own mentor that they can Skype with every week throughout the program.

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