On the first Veterans Day, women couldn't vote. Today, we honor their service

Elizabeth Howe
November 11, 2019 - 6:56 pm
WIMSA Veterans Day

On the first Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day, on Nov. 11, 1919, women could not vote. Now, they serve in every branch of the United States military. This year, on Veterans Day, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation hosted its 22nd annual Veterans Day program with female representatives from every branch. 

PHOTOS: Check out the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

The women spoke of barriers, legacies, challenges, and triumphs across the female experience in every branch. Navy veteran Susan Fritz spoke of the "cracks in that glass ceiling" that she left behind after her career.

Marine Corps Major Ashley Christman spoke of the small part she has played in the Corps's proud 101 years of female Marines.

"I hold Veterans Day as a day of pride and thankfulness. Pride in the fact that I did my small part in continuing the 101 years of tradition of females serving in the Marine Corps," Christman said.

But Air Force Tech. Sgt. Samantha Payne also addressed all the work left to do. 

"As I carry the torch that those carried before me, I will continue to shed light on those issues and barriers that still exist in our services today in order to ensure that the U.S. military is free from all discrimination," Payne said. "I will make bridges for the men and women who come after me — including my daughter."

It is these opportunities and these bridges that make America the country that it is, according to keynote speaker Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Loretta Reynolds. 

"America is the light on the hill. Here, people have freedom of religion, choice, and opportunity. Here, America's values offer stability and hope. People around the globe love America. People around the world love what America stands for. America is the most stable country in the world," Reynolds said. "And that America was bought and paid for with the blood and dedication and sacrifice of America's veterans."

On Veterans Day, Reynolds remarks recognized the service of all American veterans — but she also pointed out one of the many things that make female veterans unique. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, did you know that women in uniform have always been volunteers," Reynolds said. "I am eternally grateful for all they did, the doors they opened, and the paths they wrote for me and the women with whom I have served."

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial, built in 1995, honors the nearly 3 million women who have served or are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces starting with the American Revolution. It is the only major national memorial of its kind. 

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