The stereotype people often think of when they think of a military service member is a man. Men are the ones we have been taught to believe that fight our wars. And part of the reason people don’t know about women’s service is that for so long no one shared their stories. Things are changing. Women are stepping out and sharing their stories of military service. Sharing the history of military women. And the digger we deep into history the more we find that women haven’t just begun to break the barriers. They have been breaking barriers for years, often unseen, but always there.
History of military women
Women have served formally in the US Military as far back as World War I and while their role was often limited to nurses and secretaries. That only tells part of the story with a little research about the history of military women can lead you to discover the Hello Girls, the Women Air Force Service Pilots, and the brave nurses who received Purple Hearts during Vietnam. The role and scope of women have continued to evolve rapidly with the onset of the Global War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. As the combat lines blurred women were pushed out to the front lines and Special Ops teams realized they couldn’t reach half of the population because of their gender. Women began to be attached to Infantry and Special Operations Units to reach this hidden population.
Military women have always been a volunteer service.
And women have always been willing to step up to fill the roles open to them. Even today women are still not included in the military draft as only males are required to register on their 18th birthday. But women continue to step up, break barriers and glass ceilings. And doing so they are changing the world for the generations following them.
In 2010, I deployed to Afghanistan attached to an Infantry unit. At the time I didn’t realize the importance of my role. I did not know I could not be part of an Infantry unit because I was a woman. I had never been told no in the military. There was not anything I could not do. So, I went into a situation I never expected but willing to sign up for. And because of me and thousands of other women like me who served in non-traditional roles, the military began to change. Opening the door for all career fields to be open to them. And for gender no longer limiting what they can accomplish. This one change will be a catalyst for positive change for women in the military.
So, the next time you think of a veteran make sure to include women in your reflection.
Because women are a crucial and important part of the US military that are often forgotten. But their stories are remarkable and the impact they are making today are they hung up their uniform continues to change the world. Please, don’t forget the women who blazed a trail opening up more opportunities for you no matter where your career takes you.
Are you interested in learning more about military women? Check out the Women of the Military Podcast to hear real stories of military women past and present.