This March, IAVA is celebrating Women’s History Month by highlighting female veterans on social media. As a Policy Intern in our DC office, I have been tasked with researching these distinguished women. As a young woman, I feel motivated to pass on what I have learned to empower women veterans past, present and future.
As I profiled 31 women veterans, I discovered stories of bravery, resilience and a lot of “firsts.” Take the example of Dr. Mary Walker, who administered battlefield care to soldiers of the Civil War and became the first and only female recipient of the Medal of Honor. Or Grace Hopper — the Navy’s first female Admiral and a pioneering computer programmer. Air Force veteran Eileen Collins was the first woman to command a NASA shuttle mission aboard the Columbia. Today, women veterans continue to be trailblazers in a variety of fields. They are business owners, advocates, and congresswomen. Their accomplishments are impressive not because of or in spite of their gender, but because of their resilience in the face of adversity.
These women have been left out of headlines and textbooks, despite their impact on our history. Their accomplishments have often been overlooked or discounted. Some women veterans have even felt discouraged from self-identifying as a veteran due to the misguided and outdated views of the American public.
Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama called on women veterans to be proud of their service and “tell their story.” It is our duty — as civilians, active military service members, veterans and as fellow American citizens — to listen. This Women’s History Month, seek out these stories. I encourage you to reach out to a woman veteran you know. You can also read about distinguished women veterans on IAVA’s Facebook page during the month of March.
Women are the fastest growing demographic in both the veteran and military communities. By 2020, it is projected females will comprise 11 percent of the nation’s veteran population. We owe it to the next generation of women veterans to understand the challenges their predecessors overcame and support their accomplishments.
There is a lot of progress to be made in order to better serve the needs of women veterans, but we can start by sharing their stories. Join IAVA in celebrating #WomenVets!