By: Kaylah Jackson
“This memorial is for you,” echoed throughout the 20th year anniversary of the Women in Military service Memorial. This was my first time visiting and being able to surround myself with women who wore the uniform so many years before men, who fought for jobs only open to me, and who were called “first” in the history books was an inexpiable experience.
I always describe the military as this sort of bigger-than-life exclusive club. No other organization allows you to meet people from all walks of life, culture, religions and throws you in a situation that forces you to trust them, essentially with your life. It’s an eternal connection that’s sometimes identified by seeing an assault pack peek out from a sea of purses and backpacks on the bus or getting a glimpse of a KIA bracelet on a wrist, but as women, we don’t always announce our service for the world to see.
There’s a certain sisterhood and a forever bond that can only be understood when you’ve had to get up hours earlier than the rest of the platoon to wrap your hair around a sock bun, walk miles in another direction of a FOB just to use the female bathroom, or pack endless baby wipes for missions, even though you’ll know you’re never really clean until you’re back home.
The memorial is a conglomeration of those shared experiences and stories. It’s a chance to look at the women to your left and walking through the site and say “thank you,” and not just “thank you for your service,” but “thank you for enduring what you did so that I could be where I am today.” It’s a chance to celebrate the women who wanted to be Coast Guard Pilots and Army Rangers when the world told them they couldn’t. It’s the only place to come and reflect on what it means to be a women warrior.
I couldn’t help but tear up when BG Wilma Vaught Ret., reminded me and reminded all of us that being a woman in the military is an honor. There was never a draft for women. We never were forced to put on the uniform–we have always volunteered, and I think that is something special every women who has ever sworn to defend her country should remember.