The Foxhole: Honoring our female veterans
This month, we focus on the “forgotten” veterans, the women who have so ably served. I write forgotten, because there are those who still think of the military as “man’s work.”
Women have served formally or informally in America’s military from our country’s founding. From Catherine Moore Barry and the Battle of Cowpens and Sybil Ludington, the “female version of Paul Revere,” thus began the women’s march into history. (If you are interested in history, the women mentioned in this article are fascinating reading.) Today, there are over 214,000 (or 14.6% of total active-duty military) females serving. From four-star generals to airmen, from intelligence analyst to infantryman, the women of today’s military serve in every rank and every Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) faithfully and honorably.
It hasn’t always been thus, however. It wasn’t until 1901 that the Army established the Army Nurse Corps. And it wasn’t until 1948 that Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act allowing women to serve on active duty, outside periods of war! The Vietnam War saw Commander Elizabeth Barrett become the first female to hold a command in a war. And it took over 174 years (1976) for four of the United States Military Academies to allow females to attend those schools. Andrea Hollen, Rhodes scholar, was one of the 62 women in the first graduating class (1980) at West Point. Not until 1991 did the first authorized women fly in combat and serve onboard combat vessels. In 2005, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester of the Army National Guard was awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest ranking award for valor in combat. And it wasn’t until 2016 that the secretary of defense announced all combat positions would be open to females, no exceptions.
All this notwithstanding, women have been involved in military operations throughout our history. Sometimes they had to disguise themselves (Deborah Sampson during the Revolution and Cathay Williams after the Civil War). Some were caught in unexpected combat (World War I saw 400 women die, World War II, 18 killed and 88 taken prisoners of war). They have served bravely and without hesitation.
Through all this, they have also battled the men they served with, some of whom thought the female had no business in a “man’s” world, some who harassed and exploited these women verbally, physically, even sexually. And the Department of Defense continues to reverse this shameful behavior through training and enforcement of regulations.
Today there are over 1.8 million female veterans, some who have gone on to hold public office, some who quietly resume their lives, and some who suffer from their experiences in service. To all of them, we owe our thanks, support, and respect, for they have traveled a long and sometimes difficult road to arrive at their present destination. Here is an overdue thank-you to those who have served, and currently serve these United States!
To support those women who have struggled from their service, go to: https://www.homesforthebrave.org/programs/female-soldiers-forgotten-heroes/.
Post 86 information: email@example.com or post86legion.org.
Tom Moore, Adjutant
American Legion Post 86