A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

February 2002/March 2002

WOMEN VETERANS COMMITTEE REPORT

The Common Cloth Of Sisterhood

BY MARSHA FOUR, CHAIR

The Women Veterans Committee is moving forward with an active investigation of our involvement in veterans activities for this coming fall. This includes the Fifth Anniversary of WIMSA (Women in Military Service for America) and the 20th Anniversary of The Wall. Initial conversations for planned events surrounding the Tenth Anniversary of the Vietnam Women's Memorial also have begun.
     Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris, the newly selected Director of the VA Center for Women Veterans, attended the National Board of Directors' January meeting. Prior to the committee meeting, I interviewed Dr. Trowell-Harris for an upcoming article in The VVA Veteran. We look forward to a healthy and continued relationship with the Center for Women Veterans through our developing dialogue with the new director.
     I spent several hours last November with about 150 women veterans at a luncheon at the Coatesville VA Medical Center. By and large, most were women older than myself, many of them Korean and WWII veterans.
     I have been an attendee at this annual day of appreciation on several occasions. As the keynote speaker this year, I wondered what I could say that had not been said before. I wondered, too, what I could say that would be of interest to all women veterans, not just those of the Vietnam era.
     I decided that even though some of my comments and remembrances were of the Vietnam War in the late '60s, there was common ground for us all. It wasn't so much where I was or what I did, but the uniform I wore and the military structure of which we were all a part. This was the thread woven into the common cloth of our sisterhood.
     We laughed together as we remembered basic training, uniforms, NCOs, shared quarters, chain of command, as well as misconceptions. I looked out over the group and for a minute saw myself in the years to come. I wondered to whom I would be listening on Veterans Day, what woman would be speaking, and if I'd still feel connected to this band of courageous, independent, devoted, and sometimes outspoken women who sacrificed for country.

Being a woman in the military isn't so hard any more. Things have changed. Opinions have changed. The rules of equity have changed. Women in the military are no longer seen as out of step with expectations of what a woman should be. They are no longer seen as curious oddities. Motivations are better understood.
     We, as women, are an important ingredient and have proven our worth. We have earned our place. We are more recognized and appreciated for our abilities, and we stand tall, shoulder to shoulder in the ranks.
     My hope is that we, as women, don't ever forget how hard we fought to make it to this place and how many suffered and sacrificed to cut the path, beating back the overgrowth, clearing the rocks, filling the ruts, and laying the foundation for the paved road we now travel.
     The women who serve today are the guardians of our future. They will be the storytellers of our past and of our future. They will be the history lessons of our daughters, the messengers of our heritage, and the pride of our future women in uniform.

This takes me to a place that always reminds me of who we all are and how we all make this country what it is. The events of September 11 have set us on a course not traveled before. They will burn forever in the minds of all of us who witnessed them. They will be passed on to our children.
     September 11 fueled the fire of patriotism that lay dormant much too long. It ignited a torch in our souls that had long been smothering under piles of forgetfulness, apathy, and self-indulgence.

All that is over. We join the world fiercely bent on justice with a patriotism reborn. I write this with prayers for all who fight the fight, for their families, our families, our country, our world, and for all our leaders. God give them strength, prudence, courage, and love. ■

   


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