Virtually all Americans realize that Memorial Day is more than a celebration of the coming of summer. It’s a time to remember the veterans who fought for our country, and even willingly gave their lives, so the rest of us could enjoy the privilege of freedom. We’re grateful for their sacrifice.
Anyone who has served our country to preserve our liberty certainly deserves our heartfelt acknowledgement for their bravery and selflessness. But I’d like to express particular admiration for a segment of the armed forces that’s been somewhat overlooked throughout history: our women soldiers. Often, they’ve been ignored. They’ve faced discrimination. In fact, they’ve sometimes been known as “the invisible veterans.” (See “Veteran” at en.wikipedia.org.) Actually, there are more than 1.6 million women veterans in the U.S. today, almost 20% of all veterans, and this percentage is continually growing.
During the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and other early wars, women not allowed to serve in combat were known to disguise themselves as men in order to fight alongside them. Some were discovered and forced to resign, but a few were later granted a small pension or a plot of land, usually much more modest than their male compatriots. (See “Women Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War” at userpages.aug.com.)
During World War II, in 1941, Congresswoman Edith Norse Rogers introduced a bill which created the WAAC, or Women’s Army Auxiliary Core. Although Eleanor Roosevelt and Congresswoman Rogers thought women were entitled to full military status, the bill was debated, stalled, sandbagged and almost thrown out, until General George C. Marshall ordered the War Department to create a women’s corp, just days before Pearl Harbor on December 7. (See “Women in World War II” at userpages.aug.com.)
Military nurses were critically involved during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which left 2,235 servicemen and 68 civilians dead, and far more wounded. First Lieutenant Annie G. Fox, whose valor was instrumental in rescuing our troops there, was the first of many Army nurses awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. (See “Top Ten Most Notable Women Veterans” at lowvarates.com.)
With Eleanor Roosevelt serving as an effective leader in the initiative, women rapidly became an active force in all branches of the armed services. In 1943 the WAAC transitioned from their auxiliary status to the WAC. In January of 1944 the first WACs arrived in the Pacific and in July of 1944, they landed on the beach at Normandy along with men as reinforcements. Over 350,000 U.S. women served in the military during WWII. (See "Women in World War II" at userpages.aug.com.)
Several U.S. military women have been honored for their valor and buried in Arlington National Cemetery, including, Major Marie Therese Rossi, killed during Desert Storm in 1991 at age 32. Her epitaph reads “First Female Commander to Fly into Battle.” (See “Women Buried at Arlington National Cemetary” at userpages.aug.com.)
Many other women have died in combat. Women have risked and sometimes lost their lives in special intelligence forces. They’ve been captured and tortured as prisoners of war. Their courage and competence has equaled men’s. They deserve to be recognized at men's sides for their achievements.
If you think women aren’t strong enough or tough enough to fight alongside men, read “Women in Combat Why Not?” at userpages.aug.com. It’s an eye-opening article, which cites several studies that disproves the skeptics in the strength debate.
Have a safe and happy Memorial Day. Eat hot dogs or burgers or steaks from the grill. Dive into that inviting pool. And have fun with family and friends. Our veterans fought so we can enjoy these liberties. But as you’re celebrating, please be a role model for our youth and extend your appreciation to our veterans, both male and female, living or deceased. You might also say a special prayer for all those in the armed services who are working today to keep our shores safe for democracy. They all deserve our gratitude, our support, and our respect.
Take a moment to watch this Youtube video, which may leave you with a new sense of pride for women everywhere who are giving their all in the armed forces.
Tribute to women in the military