Women continue to make great strides serving our country. After officially being allowed to serve in combat in 2016, women in the military continue to make great strides, inspiring others and future generations.
This March, Women's History Month, underscores these accomplishments and brings stories of service to life.
Groups such as the VA’s Center for Women’s Veterans, The National Women’s History Project, and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, celebrate women’s contributions to our democracy and armed forces.
And although women continue to break barriers, they have just begun to influence the combat readiness of our armed forces. In 2015 the U.S. Department of Defense decided that all combat jobs would be open to women, and by 2016 that was formalized when ten women became the first female graduates from the U.S. Army's Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning, GA.
More Military Firsts for Women
Some famous military firsts: In 1918, the Secretary of the Navy allowed women to enlist in the Marine Corps for clerical duties. Opha May Johnson then quickly became the first female Marine. Dr. Mary Walker, the only woman to earn the Medal of Honor, is known for saying “Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom.”
These days, we recognize women such as Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, veteran advocate and former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2004, a rocket-propelled grenade hit Duckworth’s helicopter, and she lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm. She is the first disabled woman elected to serve in the House of Representatives, the first female double amputee in the Senate, and the first Senator to give birth while in office,
Duckworth is also an inductee into the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame. At the same time, Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught, USAF (Ret.). Vaught, was also named to the Hall of Fame. Vaught is one of the few female Vietnam War veterans who was not a nurse.
Women also lead as the heart and soul of military families across the United States and around the world. Through the work of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) families of the fallen receive the help they need and deserve. The group is run by Bonnie Carroll, an Air Force Veteran.
Other key facts about women and the military:
- By the end of 2021, the total number of active duty military forces was more than 1.3 million, with the number of active duty females at 17.2% of the total, an all-time high.
- According to the U.S. Department of Labor in a 2019 report, nearly 2 million women are veterans, or about 10 percent.
- According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 17 percent of post-9/11 veterans are women.
Other military women recognized by Veterans Advantage, co-founded by a woman, in past years include: