If you haven’t thanked a Veteran yet today then you should.
When most people think of veterans they think about the men who have served this country. I don’t know why, but so many people associate being a veteran with being a man and they couldn’t be more wrong.
Women have been serving in the military since the Revolutionary War. The first American female soldier was Deborah Sampson of Massachusetts. She enlisted in the Continental Army under the name of “Robert Shurtlief”. She served for three years and was wounded twice; she even cut a musket ball out of her own thigh so no doctor would find out she was a woman. Her secret wasn’t discovered until after the war and even then George Washington gave her an honorable discharge.
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman enlisted under the alias of Pvt. Lyons Wakeman during the Civil War. She served with the Union troops and her complete letters describing her experience were reproduced in the book, “An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, 1862-1864.”
The Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps was established in 1941. However, political pressures stalled the waylaid attempts to create more roles for women in the American Armed Forces. Women saw combat during World War II, first as nurses in the Pearl Harbor then in July 1943 a bill was signed removing ‘auxiliary’ from the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, making it an official part of the regular army. WAC’s were in the Pacific and in Europe. The Woman’s Naval Reserve and Marine Corps Women’s Reserve were also created during this time.
There were 350,000 American women who served during World War II; 67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were captured and spent three years as Japanese prisoners of war; 16 were killed in action;and in total, they received more than 1,500 medals, citations and commendations.
Virginia Hall received the second-highest combat award — the Distinguished Service Cross — for action behind enemy lines in France.
Following WW II the vast majority of women who served returned to civilian life. The Women’s Armed Services Act of 1948, also known as Law 625, was signed by President Truman, allowing women to serve in the armed forces in fully integrated units. The WAC remained a separate unit.
During the Korean War many women served in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, with women serving in Korea numbering 120,000 during the conflict. Records regarding American women serving in the Vietnam War are vague. However, it is recorded that 600 women served in the country as part of the Air Force, along with 500 members of the WAC, and over 6000 medical personnel and support staff.
As you can see women have been serving this country formed. They’ve been involved in every conflict this country has been a part of and will continue to be. The biggest change is that women’s roles are different. No longer are they delegated to being nurses, but they serve on combat ships and fly aircraft. Although they are still not aloud to serve on submarines or in elite military units, I believe in time it will happen.
So next time you hear the word Veteran, don’t think of only the men who served think of all the women who have or are currently serving like SFC Kristin Williamson Rodriguez, a 1989 Jersey Community High School graduate, who is currently in Afghanistan.
For those of you who didn’t know I’m a U.S. Army Veteran. I served with the 266th Theater Finance Command in Heidelberg, Germany during the early 1990s. Although I didn’t serve directly in Desert Storm, I did serve as support to hundreds of troops from USAREUR or United States Army, Europe. I proudly served and if given the chance I would do it all over again.