Originally published in the Houston Chronicle on May 31, 2018:
When you celebrated veterans this past Monday as part of the Memorial Day weekend, who came to mind? A grandfather or great-grandfather who served in World War II? A father or uncle still conflicted about Vietnam? A currently serving career officer, maybe on his seventh or eighth deployment to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Korea ... ?
Did any of our more than 2 million women veterans come to mind? Women have served in every American war: saving lives, leading troops, pioneering medical treatments, fixing planes, breaking enemy codes and investing their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.
Since the 1800s, the last week of May has been set aside to remember Americans who've given their lives defending America. Today, this final day of May, is a fitting day to remember and honor veterans who are frequently forgotten: American women who have died in service to our country and the more than 2 million women veterans, the fastest growing demographic in our armed services. Yes: Women are volunteering and being accepted into the armed forces — including the officer cadet academies — at rates of enlistment that are outpacing men.
Seventy years ago, in 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Women's Armed Service Integration Act. Women were an integral part of the allied forces prevailing in WWII, from the women code-breakers who deciphered Nazi messages to American WAVES and WACS to Rosie the Riveter and the women who served at home. President Truman, himself a decorated officer, knew the importance of women in our armed services.
These 70 years have been an imperfect integration. Women are still discriminated against, at home and abroad. Not only do women veterans face every challenge men face — reintegrating with families and civilian communities, job search and retraining, post traumatic stress, homelessness — our valiant women veterans face additional challenges.
Women veterans who wind up without a job, without a home, often are still the primary caregivers for children. Homeless, with children, after serving America. Women are sexually assaulted at service academies, assaulted in uniform when deployed at home and abroad and often face a chain of command that includes their abusers. Veterans' hospitals and other facilities still focus more on men, with women all too often an afterthought.
Do we see the faces of women today, on Memorial Day in America? Do we see the black, brown, white, Asian, straight, lesbian, tall and small veterans, some all in one piece, some fitted with prosthetics, missing arms or legs? Do we remember their sacrifices to defend our country, from enemies both foreign and domestic?
But there is so much more to the story! Our women veterans are proud and resilient. These women are strong. Women veterans have triumphed in circumstances many of us can barely imagine. They are running for elected office and winning. They are leading teams with a strong work ethic, loyalty and integrity.
For every reason a male veteran is a good hire, a female veteran can be a great one. A great team leader serving here at home with the fierce loyalty to America they demonstrated in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.
What: Women's Veterans March
Where: City Hall
When: June 9, 2018, 9 a.m.
Click here for more information
Today, on this historically observed Memorial Week in America, let's remember all our veterans, including the fastest growing demographic in the armed services: women. Join us downtown June 9, and help us thank women veterans for their service — not just when they proudly wore the uniform in active duty — but their service here, now, at home. Women veterans are going to help lead America forward.
Tana Plescher is a veteran and U.S. Navy Corpsman, and Robin Paoli is the wife of a veteran, a U.S. Navy Chief.
Follow @WomensMarchHou on Twitter.