Remembering Women SoldiersMay 25, 2008
Women have served, and died, in the U.S. armed forces since the Revolutionary War. While there isn’t much documented history, the bodies of two women soldiers were found at the battle of Gettysburg. Ellen May Tower was the first woman to die in service to this country on foreign soil. An Army nurse, Tower died of typhoid in Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War.
But today, with the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, women are playing more visible and more important roles than ever. While women are still technically limited to noncombat military positions, there are no “front lines” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and women are serving alongside men—and bearing the same risks—including death. Pfc. Monica Brown was awarded a Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest combat medal, for risking her own life to save other soldiers in Afghanistan. A few days later, she was removed from her platoon, as women were not supposed to serve in combat. She wasn’t supposed to be there, saving those lives.
As the military has diversified in order to make recruitment goals, women are recruited more then ever. The Marines have launched a campaign targeting women with the tagline, “There are no female marines. Only marines.” However, the most convincing recruitment tool for the military has been the Montgomery GI Bill, giving those who have served in the military money for college. While there is still some debate on whether the bill goes far enough, there is no debate on how important the GI bill was in opening up colleges and universities to working-class Americans.
More women in the armed forces means more women who are veterans or disabled veterans and more women have died in conflict. In fact, more women have died in Iraq than in all previous wars combined. And while too many people have lost a loved one in these current conflicts, I have a special place in my heart for all the kids who have lost their mother to war.
This Memorial Day weekend, don’t forget to honor the women who have proudly served and lost their lives for the country. To all the women in the military—whether serving as nurses or in clerical roles to relieve men for combat, as in the past, or serving as generals and admirals and on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan today—thank you.