Celebrating female Veterans – past, present & future


Throughout March people across the country will celebrate Women’s History Month, paying tribute to the vital role women have played in United States history. Generations of women have courageously blazed trails, broken barriers and fundamentally changed our society. At VA, we are proud to spend this month honoring and celebrating women Service members and Veterans for their past, present and ongoing service to our country.

As the daughter of a Navy Veteran and someone who has had the privilege of working to advance Veterans for more than 23 years, supporting women Veterans feels very personal to me. My colleagues, mentors and friends are Veterans—many of them women Veterans. I am proud that here at VA, women are represented at every level throughout our organization. And while studies show that people typically imagine a man when they think “Veteran”—women Veterans have been around for much of America’s history.

Well before the women’s rights movement came along in 1848, women in the military were breaking barriers to serve our county. During the Revolutionary War, women served in military camps as laundresses, cooks, nurses and spies. Up until World War I, women served as soldiers disguised as men. During the last two years of World War I, women were finally allowed to join the military in their own right. Thirty-six thousand women served in that war, and more than 400 nurses died in the line of duty.

Today, about 219,000 women Service members are currently stationed throughout the world filling a diverse range of roles from radio operators, translators, and pilots to rangers. Times have certainly changed.

As the number of women in military service grows, so does the number of women Veterans. Today, nearly 2 million Veterans are women. As the fastest growing Veteran subpopulation, women Veterans are making their mark. Before 2012, there had been only three women Veterans in Congress in history. Today, a record six female Veterans hold office on Capitol Hill.

But while the success of our women Veterans is undeniable, the explosive growth in the number of women Veterans means VA must continue to adapt to better meet their diverse needs—and we are.

I spent the first eighteen years of my VA career in Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Service —and I know first-hand how essential it is that Veterans receive their benefits and services to put them on the path to a meaningful civilian career. It’s our job at VA to anticipate the services women Veterans need and to provide that to them.

For instance, women Veterans are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of businesses owned by women Veterans increased by 296 percent, to reach a total of 384,548 businesses, up from about 130,000. And the number continues to grow: over the past five years the number of companies owned by women Veterans has almost quadrupled.

I hope you’ll take a look at the Center for Women Veterans’ new Trailblazers Initiative, which celebrates the contributions of women Veterans who served our country—especially those who blazed a trail for others to follow.

At VA we are proud of our women Veterans, and we will continue to work to ensure that we anticipate and meet their needs as they continue to be a vital part of our military and nation. I extend my thanks to women Veterans who continue your service every day in big and small ways.


Margarita Devlin


  1. Roger Hirsh    

    Honoring Virginia Navy, active duty, retired, veterans at http://www.facebook.com/Navy.Plate.Va Both my wife and daughter are Navy veterans.

  2. Gail Harlan    

    My Name is Gail Harlan I joined The Women Army Core

    1. Marrilynn Sharpe Lockett    

      I am also an enlistee of the Women’s Army Corps. 9 May 75

    2. Fran Laidlaw    

      My name is Fran
      I served in the USAF as a Aeromed Tech( Flt surgeons) we were first response to aricrafts crashes

    3. Adrienne Windwillow    

      Is there some reason why USPHS and NOAA service members never seem to be included in these commemorations?

  3. Kimberly King    

    My name is Kim and I served on the Aviation side of the Navy from 1985 to 2007. I flew as a Loadmaster on 3 different platform aircraft and I remember a time when we flew to some base, a man on a fork lift saw me and said right to my face, “I’ll be damned if I am going to have a woman tell me how to offload that plane.”
    I remember someone telling me back when I had first joined that of all the groups of people in the world, women are the most discriminated against and the least apt to complain about it.
    Turns out some folks really didn’t care for women on planes either so my Master Chiefs gave me great advice. They told me to learn my loadmaster job so well, that I would be seen as the Airwing expert at what I did. Sure enough, that’s exactly what I eventually did and I now have to wonder if I would have tried as hard as I did without all the harassment.
    When I see parents coddle kids today, afraid to let them try when the odds seem quite against it, I am glad we did not grow up in that world.
    As for the VA… you have been SO GOOD TO ME! Thank you. And thank you for the great, concise article. A friend sent it to me. God bless America and my fellow women veterans!!!!

    1. Misty Hall    

      Good Day to All! My name is Misty and I served in the Navy Reserve from 1989 to 2005. I was a Loadmaster in the Fleet Logistics Support Community. Kimberly King was my instructor during training and my inspiration to become a Loadmaster. Because of her guidance, instruction, and encouragement, I became a qualified Loadmaster. She was and still is a friend and mentor to me. Thank you so much!

  4. Rebecca Jacoby    

    I served from 1977 until 2008. I started as a Yeoman, cross-trained to become a jet mechanic. My brothers taught me, other taunted me, but I would never take back the memories, friends, comrades I had and still have. I helped open doors for women who wanted to serve, I traveled to so many places in the world as an aircrew person. I was a Loadmaster Instructor, I put a reunion together after our squadron moved from the Bay Area – it was a total success. I made my sacrifice leaving my son with my parents behind during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and thousands of hours I put into flying instead of being with my son. I served, was and still am proud to have served. 26 years with the Navy, and another 8 with the Air National Guard.
    It’s sad when I have to listen to some men in the same or other branches brag about themselves and what they have done – my sisters who were serious about the military understand. We don’t have to toot our horn, we know what we did, and don’t have to prove it to anyone! I saute all who served, and support all who still serve!

  5. Patricia Lyons Moriarty    

    As a wife of a retired Naval Officer, I am alarmed and concerned about sexual assault in the military. I am disappointed that this article did not refer to this safety issue that military women face and how unfairly it is has been handled by the Military in the past. Just this week a former Navy pilot who now serves in Congress reported her assault by a person who out ranked her. This is appalling and should end now. This is a sad part of Military Women’s History in the Military and it should be addressed this month as we recognize Women’s History month. let’s expose the good and the bad and work with Congress to address this issue with more fairness and transparency

  6. harry coogle    

    A great big THANK YOU to these women. They did and are doing a great job. It was my pleasure to serve under and with many in my career(1968-1988). Gen. Norma Brown is probably the most notable.

  7. Crystal D    

    Hi there, I loved being in the Army, but I didn’t go in because I wanted to advance women’s rights. I went in for the physical and mental challenge of it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, and did. I learned how to be a leader, and show initiative at the same time. Right after I re-enlisted, I hurt my neck and shoulder in the line of duty, otherwise I would’ve made it a 20+ career. I went to PT, OT, did swimming and I improved some, but if you’re not 100%… After several years, I was given an honorable service connected disability. The day I hung up my fatigue hat, I cried and if you knew me, you would know, I hardly ever cry. I still miss it! But I am who I am because of my military experience, and I’ll never forget it. As a Veteran, I go to VA hospital’s, and there’s one thing missing from Women’s healthcare, and that is experienced Doctor’s and surgeons who really know about the disease, Endometriosis. I developed this years after my discharge, and when I tried getting care for it at the VA, I was met with skepticism and Gyn doctor’s who didn’t know what they were doing. It took six years for me to be diagnosed and another three years before the active Endometriosis was removed. But because of this 9yr diagnostic delay, I am still dealing with this disease. And yes, the medical profession does consider it to be a disease now. It has morphed into other pelvic pain generator’s, like Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. If anyone is reading this that can change things at the VA, so other women Veteran’s who develop Endometriosis can get the care they need, please do so. Thank You, Crystal

  8. Sandria White Hughes    

    Hi, my name is Sandria and I served in the US NAVY RESERVES for 28 years. Those 28 years were the most rewarding of my life. I did not want to retire, but due to health problems, I was forced to. I will never forget the many challenges and outstanding opportunities afforded to me during my tenue. I owe what I learned from the Navy and the people who touched my life a great deal. I was proud to serve my GOD, country, and family. Thanks so much for that wonderous opportunity.

  9. Linda borgetti    

    Hi my name is Linda I joined the Army in 1977. I enlisted to be a wheeled vehicle mechanic and I broke barriers because this was a non traditional job for women. Then I renlisted 1981 to be motor vehicle operator another non traditional role. I have seen women break so many barriers and do much better jobs and work harder then men. I retired as a SGM with so many different opportunities and adventures along the way knowing there is no job I can not handle. I thank every woman in all branches of service for paving the way for other women.

  10. B594    

    Hi my name is Emily. Served in the Army from 62-64 and from 76-92. Saw active duty in Germany (twice) Korea (2ndID) twice and, stateside was Tinker Air Base , Ft Lewis and Ft Sill. Loved the military way of life.

    1. Lydia Rucker    

      Hi my name is Lydia and I service in the Army from 1979 to 1986 right out of High school.Basic training at Fort McCellen,So and station at Tobbyhanna, PA and moved to Fort Hood, Tx 47th Medsom and 428th Medsom.Parmesan,Germany.went U got out.

  11. Lynda J Hester    

    Hi – My name is Lynda and I am a retired USCG veteran who served from 1981 to 2003 (22 years). I met my husband in the service and he retired 2 years before me.We both came in through the enlisted ranks and went on to become officers. I was with the second group of women who went to ships and it was challenging but I am glad I survived and was able to make changes or be part of the solution rather than just see the obstacles. Serving on active duty for 22 years made me a stronger person and I am proud to say that at many commands I was the only woman, the senior woman, in a mentoring role as a leader for both men and women. I considered it an opportunity and a challenge to be able to overcome and make changes that would impact others as they came along after me. Thanks to all the women who paved the way for me and for those who served with me to make things better for others.

  12. Col Bobby Moorhatch    

    Well Done! Short,concise, and to the point. My wife was a 24 year retired Air Force officer. I am quite aware of the struggles of Women in the military She was . a graduate of the first Air Force AFROTC program at 10 Colleges and Universities Circa 1958 (10 cadets at each school)–Only four graduated–the program was not a success–my wife was commandant of the George Washington University detachment where two others graduated with her and there was one other from a Midwestern College. She retired as LT.Col. and decided to try civilian life with me while I was still on active duty. She was a great advocate for equality and dignity for all Women serving in the military. Colonel Bobby

  13. Sylvia J Strickland    

    I am a USAF veteran from 1964 to 1968. I married an airman in 1965 and he retired with 21 years and I am fortunate to fall on the benefits of the USAF retirees. My assignments were Lackland AFB, Amarillo AFB, Lackland AFB, Seymour Johnson AFB and the last one was Hickham AFB. I was fortunate to be able to get the assisgnments that my husband received. Seymour Johnson in NC only had three of us women because women could only go to certain bases if they were married. We were limited where we could be assigned back then. I am glad that women now have more and more rights. Yes we were some of the ground breakers and it was really fun and a good life. The military life has always been good to us. One of the reasons I did not stay to retire because if you got pregnant during that time you had to get out of the Air Force and we decided when we got married that I would fulfill my term and then work on having a family. It is a honor to be a Veteran. Sylvia Strickland

  14. Sandra S. Annis    

    I still sometimes don’t know how to except the quote(thank u for your service)!! It was bad when I first came home especially being a WOMAN VETERAN!! I got to where I stop putting it on job applications!
    I’m getting better Thu. I know most of the ones that THANK ME ARE THE YOUNGER GENERATIONS!!

    1. Bob Padgett    

      Thank you for serving. I remember very few women military when I was in Vietnam USAF 68-69. That was a tough place to be and I can only imagine how much tougher it was for women in that environment.
      It is rather noticeable that acknowledgement of service in Vietnam is generally from the younger generation. I suppose the anti-war generation cannot bring themselves to speak up, yet expect forgiveness from Vietnam Veterans because they erroneously thought of us as animals and warmongers. We were only serving our country by sacrificing years of our lives. Thanks again for your service.

    2. Betty J Van Geest    

      There was a real stigma for women returning to civilian life after Vietnam which doesn’t get much press. It was the kiss of death on a job app or housing app as well. I don’t know what they thought we were doing during the war, but it was definitely unsavory. I’m sorry for the added trauma that must have cost many Vietnam Era Veterans.

  15. Gloria E Martinez    

    Hi, my name is Gloria. I served in the Army from 81-93. If I now what I didn’t know then , I certainly would do it all over again. I had a rough time in Basic Training. I was 17 at the time. I am now suffering from STPTSD. I never thought I could say that about my disability out loud. At first it was hard telling my story and ashamed, now it’s a little easier because I am seeing a therapist and physicatrice and I thank God that the VA is here for me. God bless America.

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