By Sgt. Ariana Cary, 25th Infantry Division Public AffairsMarch 29, 2013
(SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii) -- The seats set up in the Tropics Warrior Zone were filling fast and they had to begin filling the aisle with more chairs. Soldiers of all ranks were attending the Women's History Month observance hosted by the 25th Infantry Division, March 27, 2013 on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. By the time the event began, there were still Soldiers standing in every free space available.
Women's History Month is a celebration of women's contributions to history, culture and society. The United States has observed it annually throughout the month of March since 1987.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who served in the Hawaii National Guard as both enlisted and as an officer, attended the event as the guest speaker. Gabbard joined the National Guard while serving in the Hawaii House of Representatives in 2004. It was just another way she could serve her country and community, she said. The most important thing she tries to remember is why she is serving and who she serves. She believes that should be the basis for any decision.
"I didn't grow up thinking I wanted to run for office or join the military," Gabbard told her audience. "I was the shyest of my siblings. But as I got older I decided I wanted to do something that made a difference. I found success in my military service. I learned so many valuable lessons. I met many other strong women who served. We had to work through countless challenges, including opinions that we can't keep up. Breaking through misconceptions can only be done through action."
Women have been serving in the military since the United States was formed. Not always as Soldiers but as nurses, cooks, seamstresses and spies. These ladies traveled with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, braving the battlefields to care for the wounded and enduring the same hardships as the uniformed Soldiers. Women took an active role in alerting American troops to enemy movement. They carried messages, transported contraband and gathered information as spies for the cause. Some women traveled with their husbands, often taking their places when their men fell to enemy fire. Others even disguised themselves as men in order to fight.
By World War I, women not only acted as nurses overseas, they picked up the slack in the workforce on the home front left by their fighting men. They worked in the factories, offices and shops across the country. Once male-dominated jobs, such as clerical workers, telephone operators, typists and stenographers, were taken over by women. Others volunteered to deploy overseas to assist the troops as communications specialists, nurses and dieticians. Because these women had served the Army without benefit of official status, they had to obtain their own food and quarters, and they received no legal protection or medical care.
World War II saw women serving in the military as uniformed troops. The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC, was created. Members of the WAAC were the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks of the United States Army. These ground-breaking women seized the opportunity to take a major role in the national war effort overseas. By the end of the war their contributions would be well known. The battle for women's complete integration into the armed services had begun.
"I do believe strongly in opening the combat arms for women," stated Gabbard. "However, the standards for those jobs are in place for a reason. It's a matter of life and death, more so than with the other military occupations. There should be no exceptions, in any training. If a woman chooses to join the combat arms she should be held to all the same standards as the males."
From nurses, spies and laundresses to openly serving as a Soldier in the United States Army, women have had a hand in the military since the country's birth. They have struggled and fought alongside their male counterparts for over two centuries.