(StatePoint) The words “veteran,” “hero” and “patriot” usually evoke images of men. Many people are not aware that some 3 million women are currently serving or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces beginning with the American Revolution. Their stories are largely unknown.
“Women have served alongside men to gain and preserve liberty, from the American Revolution to today’s Global War on Terror,” says retired Army Major General Dee Ann McWilliams, president of the Women In Service For America Memorial Foundation.
The Foundation aims to bridge the gap in the public’s understanding of women’s military service and encourages everyone to help in the following ways:
Learn Their History
Women’s History Month, celebrated in March, is a great time to learn about trailblazing military women. Here are five you should know about:
• In 1782, Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to become the first woman known to enlist as a soldier in the Continental Army. The only woman to earn a full military pension for service during the American Revolution, she served as an infantryman and was wounded in action.
• Minnie Spotted-Wolf enlisted in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve in 1943, making her the first known Native American woman to do so. Skilled at breaking horses, she described Marine boot camp as “hard but not too hard.”
• Capt. Sunita Williams, an astronaut who served 322 days as commander of the International Space Station, at one point held the record for the most cumulative hours of spacewalking. During her early Navy career, she flew helicopters in Operation Desert Shield.
• Overcoming childhood adversity, in 2010 Lt. La’Shanda Holmes became the first African-American female helicopter pilot in the history of the Coast Guard. She played a vital role in the Global War on Terror.
• During her three deployments to Afghanistan, Air Force Senior Airman Vanessa Velez drove a loaded Humvee into enemy territory on more than 120 missions.
Pay a Visit
Located at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery, the Women In Military Service For America Memorial (Women’s Memorial) is the only memorial dedicated to honoring the 3 million women who have served or are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Preserving the details of their achievements, from clerk typist to fighter pilot, the Memorial aims to integrate military women into the public’s image of courage. When visiting the nation’s capital, consider adding this educational and inspiring institution to your itinerary.
Share Your Story
Military women, past and present, can register their service with the Women’s Memorial and become part of the world’s largest register of U.S. servicewomen and women veterans, which now totals nearly 267,000 members. By sharing your story future generations will come to know the valuable contributions of America’s military women. To register and learn more, visit womensmemorial.org/register-now.
At a time when the Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that women veterans are the fastest-growing veteran population, recognizing the collective service of women is more important than ever.
“No matter what you did during your service, it’s an important part of history,” says General McWilliams. “Without your story our history will never be complete.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Donna Parry