Recently, I had the privilege of joining other IAVA members in attending the Women’s History Month reception on Capitol Hill hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The event honored women veterans with Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, USAF, Ret., as the guest of honor. Also at the event were First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden who delivered rousing remarks.
It was an honor to represent IAVA at the event where women make up 20 percent of our membership and 35 percent of IAVA leadership!
Brig. Gen. Vaught gave an inspiring speech where she recalled many obstacles she overcame as a female in the military. She is the first woman in the Air Force to achieve the rank of Brigadier General, and an absolute trailblazer! At the event she was primarily honored for being a driving force in the creation of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington Cemetery, and as President of the Women’s Memorial Foundation.
Some of the most important milestones for women veterans in our history and in her career were recalled during her speech, and I found them humbling:
- 1948: The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act allowed women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces. Brig. Gen. Vaught graduated from high school the same year, and was one of 12 women in a graduating class of 24.
- 1957: Brig. Gen. Vaught was commissioned in the Air Force, which offered only one colonel’s position for women: director of women in the Air Force. The law at the time prohibited the promotion of women beyond O-6.
- 1967: Congress voted to lift the two-percent cap on women in the military and allowed women to advance to general and admiral ranks. The following year, Brig. Gen. Vaught served a tour of duty in Vietnam and declared she would become a General!
- 1980: Brig. Gen. Vaught was promoted to Brigadier [one-star] General, the first woman in the Air Force to achieve the rank.
Brig. Gen. Vaught also went on to discuss military women who have fought for equality through the years, with a discrimination suit going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where it was successfully argued by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Her remarks gave me a special appreciation for her tenacity in advocating for women veterans over the years. I also advocate for my fellow women veterans, as I believe it is necessary for our progress, and I can only hope to be an effective leader someday like Brig. Gen. Vaught.
Overall, it was an incredibly inspiring and fun event! Thank you IAVA for the invite, and let’s continue our advocacy for our fellow veterans! We have to take care of each other.
#VetsRising #WomenVeterans #WomensHistoryMonth