Women veterans are gritty. Trailblazers by instinct. Humble about their hard-earned accomplishments. Proud to help make it a little bit easier for women who have yet to serve. In 2019, a bill was passed designating June 12 as Women Veterans Appreciation Day in the U.S.
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our Heroes and SHE-roes!” Maya Angelou
We celebrate Women Veterans Day 2022 by bragging about a few of the many incredible achievements of U.S. veterans throughout the military’s history. And after COVID canceled 2020, now is a terrific time to reach out to your mother, aunt, niece, sister and friends to let them know how much you appreciate their service.
Womens Veterans Day
Women are now about 10% of the veteran population. There are roughly 2 million living women veterans, according to the VA. By 2046, female veterans are expected to increase to about 18% of the population according to Pew Research.
“Women Veterans Day is an excellent day to reflect on the sacrifices females have made for our country,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patricia Richter, as the acting director of the Division of Veterans Services for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in a 2020 Women Veterans Day article on Army.mil.
“Since 1948, women have been part of the armed forces, and unofficially long before that,” said Richter. “The pathway to where we stand today is filled with sacrifices, tenacity and determination of women who didn’t let anything get in their way. As a woman who has navigated the challenges of being in a male-dominated field, I proudly honor all women who came before me.”
XX Grit – What Is Takes to Be a Female Bada$$
“Be a Marine … Free a Man to Fight.” With that call across America, the U.S. Marine Corps established the Women’s Reservists, the last service branch to allow women into its ranks. Public opinion favored nicknames like Glamarines and Femarines, according to the National WWII Museum. But Corps Commandant General Thomas Holcomb wasn’t having it. “They are Marines,” he told Life magazine in 1944. “They don’t have a nickname, and they don’t need one. … They inherit the traditions of Marines. They are Marines.” On Feb. 18, 1943, five days after the Marine Corps began recruiting women, Bernice Frankel, aka Bea Arthur before she became a Golden Girl, went to enlist. More than 20,000 Women Reservists had earned the title of Marine by the end of World War II.
Weighing only 86 pounds upon liberation from a Japanese internment camp in Manila in 1945, Ruby Bradley, Col., U.S. Army Nurse Corps, is credited with assisting in hundreds of surgeries and delivering more than a dozen babies while a prisoner. During the Korean War, Bradley served as chief nurse of the Eighth Army. She retired as a full colonel in 1963 with 34 medals and citations of bravery, including two Legion of Merit medals and two Bronze Stars.
Five months after her liberation from Japanese imprisonment in 1945, Florence Ebersole Smith Finch enlisted in the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve “to avenge the death of my husband.” She received the Medal of Freedom in 1947. From her citation, “She displayed outstanding courage and marked resourcefulness in providing vitally needed food, medicine, and supplies for American Prisoners of War and internees, and in sabotaging Japanese stocks of critical items.”
In 2005 Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester was awarded the Silver Star for her actions in a firefight outside Baghdad. When the fight was over, 27 insurgents were dead, six wounded and one captured, and every member of her unit survived. Hester is the first woman to earn the Silver Star for direct combat action in U.S. history.
“How does that happen when you come in as a private E-1, and you retire as a major general, leading the organization that took you off the streets?” Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh said in an Army News Service article honoring her 38 years of service. She credits her grandmother for much of her strength to push through adversity. “She always said to me: Being a girl, you can do anything that you want — just don’t take your shirt off like the boys,” Singh said.
Famous Women Veterans
These women have fascinating stories of being “the first woman” to break through barriers in the military (much bigger than the snippets we include here). And there are many other stories waiting to be told, but WoVeN into these trailblazing tales are the common threads of determination to overcome obstacles and achieve goals based only on ability.
1st Lt. Ashley White
In 2010, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command created Cultural Support Teams, a program to put women on the battlefield alongside Green Berets and Army Rangers on sensitive missions in Afghanistan. Though banned from combat, female soldiers could be attached to teams.
“Ashley’s War” is the story of CST-2, a unit of women handpicked, including 1st Lt. Ashley White. From the book jacket: “Ashley’s War shares the remarkable real-life stories of one of the first teams of women serving in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The story’s hero and her all-female team of soldiers forged the path for American women who currently serve in harm’s way all over the world in every branch of our armed forces.” – Late U.S. Senator John McCain
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth is a Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She was among the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2014.
Colonel Eileen Marie Collins
Enshrined to the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2009, Eileen Collins logged more than 6,751 hours in 30 types of aircraft. She also logged nearly 900 hours in space as pilot aboard STS-63 and STS-84, and commander aboard STS-93 and STS-114. From being the first woman T-38 jet instructor at Vance Air Force Base to becoming the first woman to command a space shuttle flight, Collins blazed a remarkable trail before retiring from the Air Force in 2005.
- Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross
- Defense Meritorious Service Medal
- Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster
- Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster
- Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury, October 1983)
- French Legion of Honor
- NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal
- NASA Space Flight Medals
- Free Spirit Award
- National Space Trophy
Resources for Women Veterans
Just because women veterans are bada$$ trailblazers doesn’t mean that they may not need help coping with PTSD, the fact that your family or society doubted you belonged in the service, or the uncertainty of transitioning out of the military.
You are not alone in feeling like you need help and you should never feel ashamed.
Just check out one of our newest blogs where a retired Green Beret opens up about how PTSD affected him and his unit.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services, a STAGGERING 41% or 1.7 million veterans have reported experiencing symptoms of mental health.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline have joined the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to create the Veterans Self-Check Quiz. It is a safe, easy way to learn whether stress and depression might be affecting you.
Women Veterans Call Center
Make a call for help. Call 1 (855) VA-Women [1 (855) 829-6636] to connect with a Women Veterans Call Center representative, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 6:30 Saturday ET.
VA contact representatives can assist you and provide resources, including referrals for VA services and help to fast-track appointments with a Women Veterans Program Manager.
Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis connects veterans and service members in crisis and their families and friends with information and qualified, caring Veteran Affairs responders through a confidential, toll-free hotline, online chat and text messaging service. Call 1 (800) 273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net, or send a text message to 838255 to receive support from professionals 24/7/365.
Suggested Read: Where to Find Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF)
I Am Not Invisible: This virtual exhibit shows VA Central Office employees who are women veterans. By spotlighting the many faces of this diverse and vital segment of the veteran community, I Am Not Invisible aims to increase awareness and dialogue about women veterans and open viewers’ eyes to the expertise of veterans serving veterans as VA Central Office employees. IANI began as an exhibition featuring 20 portraits of Oregon women military veterans and is now a nationwide program.
We are sure some women want to be called veterans, not women veterans. And we get that. No doubt this is relatable to women blazing a trail. But to the veterans who feel invisible and to those who are more often mistaken for a military spouse, we want you to know that we see you. You are incredible. Thank you for your service!
“I am a Woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal Woman, that’s me.” Maya Angelou
At VeteranLife we want to say a special thank you to all of the brave women in uniform, past, present and future for serving our country and protecting our freedom. And as Maya Angelou stated you are all “Phenomenal.”
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