CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea - All throughout American history, women have played an important role in our military. From Deborah Sampson to U.S Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, women have been a pivotal part of our armed forces.
On March 25, 1st Signal Brigade, Eighth Army hosted an event at the Freedom Chapel to celebrate the many contributions of women.
"Too many times we look at the struggles that women face, and we forget about the great things women have done and are doing," said Lt. Col. Cora Henry, Operations officer in charge, 1st Signal Bde. Eighth Army. "Looking at the accomplishments of women is critical to show that women can be a part of the same force as men."
Since the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, women have been allowed to serve as full members of the military, but they began serving long before that.
The Revolutionary War was a time of upheaval for our fledgling nation, but it also brought out the best in many great women. Betsy Ross is best known for creating the American flag, but her contributions to the Continental Army go much further. She also repaired uniforms, made tents, and even filled paper tubes with musket balls to package ammunition. Another notable figure is Deborah Sampson, the first woman to enlist in the Continental Army in May 1782.
Deborah Sampson once said, "Why can I not fight for my country too?" She may have been the first to ask that question, but she was not the last.
The trend of turmoil bringing great women into the spotlight continued during one of the most desperate points in American history, the Civil War.
Most know Harriet Tubman as an abolitionist and conductor for the Underground Railroad, but during the Civil War she also worked for the Union as a cook, nurse and even a spy. Tubman provided valuable information to protect Union ships in the South while freeing over 700 slaves.
During the world wars, women began enlisting for the armed services in masses. In the Civil War, only a few thousand women joined the war effort, but during the world wars, over 400,000 women signed up to serve. Julia C. Stimson, the first woman to achieve the rank of major, and Ruby Bradley, an Army nurse who performed over 230 surgeries as a prisoner of war, proved they would not stand on the sidelines while others fought. The actions of these women and many others changed not only how the military viewed them, but the world.
With the role of women firmly cemented by the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, the Korean and Vietnam wars became the proving ground for female Soldiers. During the Korean War, both American and Korean women served in a much-needed capacity, providing aid to injured troops. Women became the center piece of the new Mobile Army Surgical Hospital units.
During the Vietnam war, Anna Mae Hays, an Army Nurse Corps officer, became the first woman to attain the rank of general. Among many advances Hays put in place, it was her recommendation that prevented pregnant service members from being discharged.
Today the fight for equality is still raging on. Everyday, women continue to break through barriers that only a decade ago would have seemed impossible.
"During my decades of service, I've seen a great change in how women are treated not only in the Army but within American society as a whole," said Lt. Col. Laura Bozeman, 2nd Infantry Division Equal Opportunity manager. "I never thought I would still be serving and see women able to serve in combat."
From women being allowed to join the combat arms and attend ranger school to Lt. Gen Laura Richardson, acting commander, United States Army Forces Command and the current highest-ranking woman in the Army, even today women are surpassing incredible milestones. The great accomplishments of women throughout history made sure others don't need to ask the question "Why can I not fight for my country too?"