This year marks the 40th anniversary of Women’s History Month, a time dedicated to recognizing the remarkable achievements of women since the founding of our country. Currently, tens of millions of women are helping America fight an unprecedented pandemic as essential workers, healthcare providers, teachers, small business owners, farmers, mothers, daughters, sisters, and more. In 2021, there were more women sworn in to Congress than at any time in our country’s history.
But in the midst of all these challenges and triumphs, we must not forget the women who courageously serve our country every day by serving in the United States military.
The efforts of daring American military women date back to the War of Independence and have spanned every conflict since. During the American Revolution, women voluntarily served in support roles as nurses, seamstresses, and cooks. Some hid their identities, dressing as men to serve alongside soldiers in the trenches. They underwent the same hardships as their male counterparts without benefiting from a military rank or compensation. They did it out of love for the country and out of a desire to sacrifice themselves to defend our republic.
The first officially enlisted woman from the United States joined the Army in March – Loretta Perfectus Walsh was sworn in as Chief Petty Officer of the United States Navy on March 21, 1917. She was the first woman to serve officially into the United States armed forces within a month of enlisting, the United States declared war on Germany and entered World War I. The following year, on January 21, 1918, Myrtle Hazard became the first woman to be officially sworn in. of enlistment for the US Coast Guard. On August 13, 1918, Opha May Johnson joined the United States Marine Corps before even having the right to vote.
Esther McGowin Blake, having already joined the Army Air Forces in 1944, enlisted in the US Air Force on active service on July 8, 1948 and proudly served alongside her two sons. And Deborah Sampson, the first woman to join the United States Army, disguised herself as a man to join the Continental Army, where she served honorably until 1783. She was wounded several times and received an honorable discharge. after being discovered as a woman.
These pioneer women were selfless and courageous, and serve as an example of what it means to be an American patriot. They continually pushed the boundaries of American society and culture, shattering the glass ceilings of their time.
Today, thousands of women serve in direct combat roles and work in combat arms professions in the Department of Defense. As the representative of the 21st Congressional District of New York City, I am continually inspired by our military women serving at Fort Drum and in the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed unit since September 11.
Every woman who ties up her boots to serve should be held in the highest regard by our nation for her courage and bravery. In their honor, I call on President Biden to designate March 21 as Women’s Military History Day. It is entirely fitting that we commemorate the women of the United States Army for their selflessness, courage and patriotism on the very day that Chief Petty Officer Walsh made history over 100 years ago.
MP Elise Stefanik represents New York’s 21st Congressional District and is the senior advocate for Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division. Stefanik is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, where she is a leading member of the Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems subcommittee, and a member of the Strategic Forces subcommittee.
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