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, controversies surrounding their role in the military make also continue to make headlines. In January, a Federal Court ruled that requiring only men register for the draft is unconstitutional.
Military Firsts for Women Veterans
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 2018, the total number of active duty military forces was 1,297,528, with the number of active duty females 215,437 or nearly 17% of the total.
- According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly 2 million women are veterans, representing 9.4 percent.
- Seven hundred thousand women have served during the post-9/11 era.
Other military women recognized by Veterans Advantage, co-founded by a woman, in past years include:
- Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody - the first female four-star general.
- Vice Admiral Michelle Howard - the first female four-star admiral in the Navy. She is also the Pentagon’s first African American woman to reach the four-star rank.
- Eileen Collins - the first female Space Shuttle Commander, returning the Space Shuttle program to flight after the Columbia disaster. She is an Air Force veteran.
- Capt. Vernice Armour - the Marine Corps' first African-American female combat pilot.