Recognition for female veterans
Women have always volunteered for military service
Since the founding of this great land, men have always been counted on and expected to defend the country, home and family. Women were not supposed to fight unless to defend their family. Guess what? Times have changed and definitely for the better. Very few are aware that several women fought, starting with the Revolutionary War. One of them was Mary Hays McCauley, better known as ‘Molly Pitcher’. She carried water to cool the cannon that her husband was firing. After her husband became injured during the fighting, Mary picked up his ramrod and continued to fire his cannon, thus becoming one of the first combatants during that war. This strength of character has continued through the decades and subsequently led to what women are now doing today in combat.
They have always been volunteers. The draft was started just after World War II and ended after the Vietnam War, but only for men. Men are required to register with the Selective Service at 18 years of age, but not women. Women have ALWAYS VOLUNTEERED!!!
There are monuments and statues all over this country commemorating the different eras of war but very few strictly honor women for what they have sacrificed.
In 2009 Illinois DAR State Regent Luann Bruckner started a project that culminated with the second statue in Illinois honoring women military veterans. With the assistance of The American Legion of Illinois supplying donations for the base of the statue, it was dedicated on June 18 of this year at the C.E. Brehm Library in Mt. Vernon, Ill. Honoring women veterans for what they have done and continue to do is something that has long been overlooked and way past due for recognition. That statue has the likeness of two women, past and present, Mary Hays McCauley and Major L. Tammy Duckworth. Tammy just happens to be from Illinois.
At present, after research, I have been able to find only 14 statues nationwide honoring female veterans and only five honor all women veterans. Two of those five are located in Illinois. The second one is at the Rock Island Arsenal National Cemetery.
When you look back at everything that women have done in the recent past (since 1900) many of us are not aware of just how much women have contributed to the war and how many there were. During WWI, 35,000; WWII, 400,000; Korea, (in theater) 1,000; Vietnam (in theater), 7,500; Grenada (deployed) 170; Panama, (deployed) 770 and Desert Storm (in theater), 41,000 and counting.
You can’t imagine when I go to the VA Hospital and watch veterans going in and out of the different clinics that I don’t see many women. That is because we’ve been conditioned to look for men as being the ones with injuries and illnesses, not women. They can be injured and become sick just as easily. They are out there doing what they are trained to do and going into combat with men. Maj. Duckworth is an example of what I am writing about. She almost lost her life in Iraq. She is a double amputee, but still serves in the Illinois Army National Guard. She still considers it her duty to serve her country. Patriotism does not come with a box to check for male or female. Believe me, women are just as passionate about this country as men.
In closing I would like to say that if you are a parent and your daughter is contemplating joining the military, help her with that decision. If she has already joined, encourage her to further her education while she is serving. When she leaves the military, have her take immediate advantage of the G.I Bill. It is a benefit she has earned. And last but not least, thank her for her service. She just gave a part of her life defending all of your freedoms.
Finally, to all of the women veterans in Illinois, I thank you for your service, and Welcome Home.
Richard Groharing is the Past Department Commander with the American Legion in Illinois. He continues to assist, wherever needed, to insure that all veterans get access to all of the benefits they are entitled.