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Remembering Women Warriors on Memorial Day

Remembering Women Warriors on Memorial Day
Photograph taken by Paul Rest

Woman have throughout history fought along side their men and often with their men. Women were at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolution. Frontier women by necessity learned how to shoot and handle a knife. Women during the First World War and especially the Second World War took on and excelled at many dangerous jobs. Women riveting bombers together did as much to end the war as troops who pulled the triggers on the front lines.

In Japan, the warrior or samurai class, included women. Women were taught the same fighting skills as men. The great martial artist and Founder of Aikido O Sensei welcomed women in his classes (although the male students apparently were not as welcoming).

And in the Greater Bay Area, we are gifted with many talented and gifted senior teachers who are women. But until recently, there were no 7th degree black belts who were woman. And it wasn’t until her 100th birthday that Sensei Keiko Fukuda, a direct student of the Founder of Judo Kano Jiguro, received the rank of 10th dan—a rank given to many male Judo teachers, but never a woman.

Winston Churchill once remarked something to the effect that history is written by the victors. One could also say that until recently that most history was written by men about men for men. That is changing with American women being included in most combat units in the armed forces forcing current and future historians to end their gender biases and include warriors of both sexes.

Which brings me to my suggestion for an addition to what we remember on Memorial Day. I say we should also remember all the women warriors who served in our military who are not remembered, who were excluded, who were sexually or emotionally abused and denied justice, who were not awarded medals that were deserved or not promoted, or who were pushed aside-- all because of their gender.

I have the highest respect for what our military is doing—standing on the wall protecting us. But when it comes to our forgotten women warriors in the military service who have and are still seeking justice and respect, the record here is pretty abysmal.

This is not about the politics of who is right or wrong here. Although it does seem like the armed services protect their own in such cases, as long as they’re male. But I think if we begin actively remembering our women heroes too, the seemingly glacial change on these issues might just speed up so justice and honor and respect can finally be fully equal.

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