The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is an important monument. It is a permanent thank you to all the women who have served.
Twenty-five years ago in Washington, D.C., the Women in Military Service for America Memorial was officially dedicated on Oct. 18, 1997. Often referred to as the “Women’s Military Memorial,” it is a monument to all women who have served in America’s Armed Forces.
In one respect, perhaps, the many years of planning for the Memorial reflects the long path women have trod for equality in the U.S. Armed Forces. The president of the Memorial, Phyllis J. Wilson, voiced the opinion of many women who had served when she spoke at the American Legion’s National Convention in 1997: “I was a soldier and I didn’t feel like I needed a place for women only,” Wilson said. “I was wrong. America still does not quite get that there are 3 million women who have defended this nation. We get to tell their stories individually and collectively.”
I thought that the Women’s Military Memorial would be an appropriate topic for a Looking Back column, so I searched the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History for reports about the Memorial. I must admit, I was a bit surprised — I did not find a single story on the topic. This, too, may be reflective of the long struggle for recognition of women in the U.S. Armed Forces.
However, I did find stories about Jewish women, including Michiganders, serving in the U.S. military. For example, “Women Warriors” in the May 28, 1999, issue of the JN addressed an exhibit about Jewish women in the military that was displayed at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C. (May 28, 1999, JN). One of the featured women was Ethel Gladstone, who served as a nurse with the U.S. Fifth Army Corps in France during World War I. Indeed, women have aided the wounded in all American wars, often serving in dangerous areas near the front lines or working amidst those with infectious diseases. During World War II, many women served in the Waves and WACS, auxiliaries to the U.S. Navy and Army. Detroiter Sylvia Granader was one of 1,074 women selected to be an Army Air Corps Service Pilot, a WASP (Nov. 22, 2002, JN). She, like other female pilots, flew unarmed airplanes to Europe or dragged targets behind their planes for machine-gun practice for bomber gunners. Several were shot down in the process. The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 was a major step forward for women. It allowed for the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces to directly recruit women into their ranks, rather than into auxiliaries. However, combat roles for women were still prohibited until recently. Maj. Gen. Jeannie Marie Leavitt became the U.S. Air Force’s first female fighter pilot in 1993 and was the first woman to command a USAF combat fighter wing. Today, women can be found in just about every military occupation where U.S. Forces are deployed, including Jewish women from Michigan. A recent JN cover story featured Rachel Baker in the National Guard (Aug. 4, 2022).
By the way, many American women, like Yael Kidron, also serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (March 18, 2010, JN). The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is an important monument. It is a permanent thank you to all the women who have served. Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.
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