Legal Momentum celebrates Memorial Day and the incredible accomplishments of women in the U.S. armed services. Today, over 213,000 women are actively serving and approximately 190,000 women are in the Reserves and National Guard. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, America’s Women Veterans, 2011).
Women have a long history of military service in the U.S. They participated in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars both by supporting troops and by dressing as men to serve on the battle lines. During World War I, women were given an official chance to serve noncombat duties. In World War II, the four military branches created women’s divisions. Women proved themselves more than capable in traditionally male military jobs, in areas such as mechanics, supplies, piloting, and communications. Aviator Jacqueline Cochran, born in poverty, went on to organize the Women’s Flying Training Detachment in 1942 and to lead the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs). WASPs served the war effort by transporting planes, testing military aircraft, towing targets, flying tracking missions, instructing pilot cadets and other important duties. Cochran set scores of speed and altitude records, and some consider her the greatest female aviator.
Since World War II, women have filled the ranks of the volunteer armed forces. Legislation has opened even more job opportunities for women in the military. In 2008, Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody was confirmed as the first female four-star General. In 1998, Lillian Elaine Fishburne was the first African American female to achieve the rank of Rear Admiral in the United States Navy.
Many women have served honorably in conflicts and given their lives. According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 200,000+ women served and 141 were casualties in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. We at Legal Momentum salute all these inspiring women past and present, and thank them for their service.