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Calling All Women Veterans

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Posted: Thursday, November 23, 2017 2:00 am

   At the close of the annual Homestead Veteran’s Day Memorial Service, the names of those who have fallen are read aloud, beginning with World War I losses. There is often a special pause when the name of the only woman, Staff Sergeant Lillian Clamens, is said.

The 35-year old mother of three, a U.S. Army Reservist, was killed in a rocket attack in October 2007 just two days before she was scheduled to return home. What most in attendance don’t think about is there are also always several women veterans among the crowd. Bubbly Margaret “Marge” Ramirez holds the distinction of having served in the U.S. Army as a medical corpsman for almost three years, then became a military wife, and later joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve in Homestead to complete a career. Yvonne Knowles, Director of Homestead Main Street, is well-known for the many community organizations she is involved with. Much less known is her four years in the Air Force or that she was on the headquarters staff for the Commander, 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing. They worked as part of the Kennedy Summer White House in Cape Cod and covered the “Northern Tier” which meant trips to bases such as Greenland, Iceland, and Alaska.

Each Veteran’s Day, a special appeal is sent from the Women in the Military Service of America Foundation (WIMSA) to find as many women veterans as possible and ask them to register. Who is eligible? “All US servicewomen, past, present and future, including living or deceased women veterans; Active Duty, Reserve, Guard and US Public Health Service uniformed women; and women in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Civil Air Patrol.

The Memorial also honors women who served overseas during conflicts, in direct support of the armed forces, in organizations such as the Red Cross, USO and Special Services; and members of the US Public Health Service Cadet Nurse Corps. The Foundation is seeking names, addresses, photos and memorable experiences of women who have served to be included in the Memorial’s Register, an interactive computer database available at the Memorial. Deceased servicewomen from any era or those civilian women who served with other civilian organizations can be registered by family members, friends and organizations.”

Although the WIMSA Memorial opened in 1997 at Arlington Cemetery, it sits up from the main visitor center and people often don’t realize it is there. When you plan a trip to Washington, D.C. and Arlington, add extra time for a museum that will inspire you and draw multiple comments of, “I never knew that”.

More than 2.5 million women have served or are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces with names that date back to the Revolutionary War. 1901 and 1908 saw the establishment of the Army and Navy Nurse Corps respectively and World War I was when women were formally acknowledged. It was World War II when more than 400,000 women served in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACS), Women Accepted for Emergency Voluntary Service (WAVES), and Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS). Reaching beyond nursing, women performed many jobs. For the first time, the role of women was recognized as something needed in other than during war, and the 1948 Women’s Armed Service Integration Act created permanent service corps for women. In the late 1970s, women were integrated into the regular forces and in 2015 combat exclusions were lifted.

However, even though the draft was in place until the 1970s, except during war, a woman’s choice to join the military was frequently viewed as socially questionable. For the women who did serve during World War II and Korea, they didn’t necessarily discuss their experiences. With the holidays approaching, families will be coming together and you might discover mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers etc., who served and you never knew. If so, talk to them about registering before those stories are lost to time.

It was not until the 1980s and especially after Desert Storm when the role of women became what so many today think of as commonplace from a cultural and social view.

“I never regretted my decision to be in the military,” Ramirez says. “I recommend young women consider it as something that can change your life.”

Women veterans can register at www.womensmemorial.org.

The Foundation office can be reached at 800-222-2294.

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