Women in service continue to make strides

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hickey
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
When I was asked to write a blog about women in military service, I knew I would be unable to mention all of the dedicated women who are and were true trailblazers when it came to carving out new roles for women in the military. I decided to select some recent and historical female service members whose stories I found interesting.

The latest achievement I read this week in the Boston Globe is the first female general officer, Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, taking command as superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut in May. Stosz was one of the earliest female cadet graduates of the academy in 1982. She said her return to lead the academy at 33 years after her own enrollment is a testament to how far women have come in military service.
President Lyndon Johnson signed Public Law 90-130 on November 8, 1967, which removed legal restrictions on women receiving promotions to the flag officer and general officer ranks, which opened the door for Rear Adm. Stosz and several others to take executive- level command positions in today's military.

We have come a long way since Deborah Sampson's enlistment in Capt. George Webb's Light Infantry Company Regiment, Massachusetts Continental Line, posing as a man named Robert Shurtleff. Sampson was so determined to serve that she assumed the identity of a man and fought in various battles from 1781-1783, until she was severely injured. While unconscious, she was treated by a doctor who discovered her secret. She was honorably discharged by order of Gen. George Washington in 1783. Sampson had received a wound serious enough to earn her a military pension of $4.00 per month, until it was later doubled in 1818.

Achievement in one's career never comes without cost. Women who commit their lives to military service sometimes do so at tremendous personal sacrifice, like their male counterparts. According to the Associated Press, women in military service, particularly enlisted women, are more likely to divorce than their male counterparts. Roughly half of married women in service are married to other servicemembers, while only ten percent of married male servicemembers are married to female servicemembers. Balancing two military careers can be extremely challenging considering the last decade's operational tempo. All of the normal martial strains are still present, along with extended separations, injuries and mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Inc. was dedicated in October of 1997 with an established mission to recognize all women who have served in or with the United States Armed Forces-past, present and future. Find out about more women in service throughout American history on their website, www.womensmemorial.org