Thank you. All of you. Women have been serving in support of our nation since before we were even a nation. Our service can be traced back to 1775 during the Revolutionary War and we were finally recognized as Veteran’s in the 1970s. In 1976, women were finally admitted into the U.S. Service Academies and in 2016 our service was officially expanded to include all combat roles (although many were already serving in combat long before it became officially recognized).
Women have been fighting in our nation’s wars before we even became known as the United States of America. Women like Deborah Sampson, who served for over a year in General George Washington’s Army during the Revolutionary War, disguised herself as a man to serve her country. While some served in combat units disguised as men, most served as cooks and nurses.
Still others, like Dr. Mary Walker, not only served our nation, but continued to advocate for women’s rights. She wanted to join the Army during the Civil War as a surgeon but was not allowed because she was a woman. While she would have been allowed to serve as a nurse, she instead chose to volunteer for the Union Army and served in field hospitals throughout the war. In November 1865, she was Awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Jackson. However, since she served as a civilian, the medal was rescinded in 1917 (a military board would later restore the honor in 1977).
During World War I, 33,000 women served as nurses and support staff and more than 400 women died the line of duty. Nearly 400,000 women served at home and abroad during World War II, with 88 captured and held as Prisoners of War (POWs). Our service has continued through the Korean War, Vietnam War, and all conflicts that have followed to the present War on Terror. (See a more complete timeline here).
We are the fastest growing group of Veterans. As of 2015, we made up 15.5% of the Active Duty force and 19% of the National Guard and Reserve forces and we make up 9.4% of the total Veteran population. According to a recent VA report published in February 2017, the overall Veteran population is decreasing by ~1.5% per year while the female Veteran population is increasing by ~1% per year. (What this could mean for our nation is a different story for a different post).
While history has not always been kind or supportive and we still have a long way to go, today is the day to recognize your military service. We have a proud heritage of military service from the Revolutionary War to the present. Appreciate that, appreciate yourself, and inspire those around you to serve our great nation.
Most of all, Be Proud – we are proud of you.