Today is Veterans Day, which honors military veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Their sacrifice and commitment to service is worthy of recognition and YWCA National Capital Area thanks all veterans for their service.
Did you know that there are nearly 2 million living women veterans in the United States, making up approximately 10% of the overall veteran population according to the US Department of Labor.
They are also the fastest growing group in the veteran population, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2000, women veterans represented just 4 percent of the total veteran population, and, by 2040, they are poised to represent 18 percent.
Women have been officially serving in the Armed Forces since 1948, when President Harry S. Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act into law. But, that doesn’t mean women didn’t find ways to serve before.
- During the Revolutionary War, Margaret Corbin disguised herself as a man and traveled with her husband to the front lines. When he was injured, she continued fighting and was given a military pension and reburied at West Point with full military honors in acknowledgment of her efforts.
- Historians estimate that about 1,000 women disguised themselves as men and fought on both sides of the Civil War.
- During WWI & WWII, many women took non-combat roles, such as nurses, telephone/switchboard operators, and translators. In WWII alone, nearly 350,000 American women served in uniform, but not officially.
Despite this growth and significant contributions to our country, women veterans continue to be underrecognized, experience increased rates of sexual violence during military service, and have a more difficult time returning to civilian life, compared to their male counterparts.
- According to this 2022 article from Military.com, assaults are at a 10 year high. ”About 8.4% of female troops and 1.5% of male troops said they were assaulted while on duty during the past calendar year, the department’s annual 2021 report shows based on surveys of service members. That is about 35,900 total service members, compared to the previous high of 34,200 in 2006, when 6.8% of women were estimated to have been assaulted.”
- Research from the Women Warriors Initiative from the Wounded Warrior Project found that women veterans experienced military sexual trauma (MST), anxiety, and depression at higher rates and had significants feelings of isolation, loneliness, and the struggle to identify with other veterans or civilian women, according to the survey of more than 4,800 women.
So, what can we do to support women veterans today and beyond? Here some suggestions:
- Learn about the I am Vanessa Guillén Act, which criminalizes sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which became law in 2022.
- Are you a veteran? Take a Bystander Intervention Training for Veterans to learn what to do if you witness harassment or sexual assault.
- Support women-focused veteran initiatives and organizations like Center for Women Veterans (CWV), The Foundation for Women Warriors and Women Veterans Rock.
- Elect more women veterans. Currently, only 9 women with official military service have ever served as members of Congress.
Happy Veterans Day. We are thankful to all that served.