For Women’s History Month …
Remembering Women in Military Service
by M.L. Faunce
In these pages over the years for women’s history month, we’ve celebrated our sisters and mothers, our nieces and grandmothers, women who are ordinary in the scheme of things but who are our heroes, our inspiration, our mentors, our guiding lights.
We’ve traced female athletes who came in to their own after Title IX, the landmark federal law that gave women and girls an equal playing field with male athletes back in 1970, dramatically increasing their numbers in sports.
We stood at Arlington National Cemetery on a cold day in October 1997 for the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial honoring all military women, past, present and future. We honor them as our grandmothers, mothers and daughters, as well. Among those women were the mother and aunt of Bay Weekly staffer Betsy Kehne. Both left their South Dakota home for the Army Nurse Corps during World War II, serving in the U.S. and the Philippines.
This time last year, I was struck when I read in another paper what was in and out for the New Year. Army Private Jessica Lynch was out and Army Spc. Shoshanna Johnson, a prisoner of war, was in — reducing the story of these two women to a trite new low. In my mind, both women were heroes, for their truthfulness as much as for their valor.
Travel in or out of BWI Airport, now, or as I did over the holidays, and notice the women among our troops in desert camouflage with toys and gifts poking out of their duffle bags, straight from Kuwait or Baghdad to be at home with their families for two short weeks. Their experience gives a new meaning to being in and being out.
Women have served, and died, in every military conflict this country has engaged in since the Revolution (not the women’s revolution; the Revolutionary War). Their names are etched on the Vietnam Memorial, on web sites and in town halls throughout this land. In early conflicts, their names weren’t always known, for to serve they hid their identity and gender. Today under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell standard, some still serve in fear of their sexual preference being revealed — in danger of losing their chosen careers, jobs they are qualified for and jobs they love.
More women than ever before are in as we celebrate Women’s History Month 2005, busy doing their jobs in an all-volunteer military service, making sacrifices, facing hardships, their sheer numbers testimony to the all in the current generation’s All Volunteer Army.
So this Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating women in military service — some 35,000 women alone in the National Guard, and the thousands of women in every branch of service to this nation.
We’re praying that they come safely out. And we’re grieving over those who didn’t come out, giving their lives for this country, including Army PFC Lori Piestewa, 23, lost in Iraq, the first Native American woman killed in action.