Across the nation each March, we celebrate Women’s History Month. It is a time set aside to recognize the historical contributions made by women and especially in the Department of Veterans Affairs, to highlight women in military service. Women have served in the military as far back as the Revolutionary War and now serve today in combat roles. For civilians who have not served in the uniformed services it may be difficult to fully understand the strength and resiliency required to serve.
In recent weeks, it’s been all but impossible to escape international news on the war in Ukraine. Although there are no US combat boots on the ground, I cannot help but analogize the civilian Ukrainian women who are bearing the burdens of war to women in US military service. It is difficult for me to conceptualize what it must be like, as a mother, a professional, a homeowner, and a daughter, to flee your home with nothing but a backpack and the clothes on your back. I’ve wondered in the last few days if I’d be brave enough.
According to the United Nations, it is estimated that 54% of people in need of assistance from the ongoing crisis are women. The numbers are expected to increase as women and children continue to flee to other countries. Considering Women’s History Month, I imagine the courage being displayed by the women in Ukraine parallels that of the courage displayed by the thousands of women who have served in our US military.
During the Revolutionary War women mended clothes and nursed wounds. They cooked and cleaned. Continuing in these roles during the Civil War, more than 3,000 women serving as nurses. During World War I the Navy enlisted women as yeomanettes, allowing them to serve as clerks, telephone operators and translators. Not long thereafter, during World War II, almost 350,00 women served in uniform. Just as the women in Ukraine, women in military service have withstood risk and overcome trials faced before them.
Women would go on to serve in the Korean War (120,000 women) and in Vietnam (11,000 women). Of significance in 2013 the ban on women in combat was lifted. More than 50 women have now graduated from Army Ranger School. They will continue making history and pave the way for women who will come after them.
As we move forward through the balance of Women’s History Month and beyond, let us pause to reflect on the accomplishments of our women in military service. In addition, let us continue to pray for the courageous women in Ukraine.
For more information on resources for women who have served in the military, please visit: Women Veterans/Inclusion Program (maryland.gov)
For resources to help cope with the current events in Ukraine, please visit: Coping with Current Events in Ukraine – PTSD: National Center for PTSD (va.gov)
Dana Burl, Outreach Program Director
MD Department of Veterans Affairs