A look at Veteran’s Day –
Only 9.4% of Veterans are women. Less than 10%. These women of courage, loyalty, and strength have served our country well since before the founding of our nation.
Formally recognized in service to their country in 1901, women have served in every capacity from washing clothes to flying a fighter jet, from mail delivery to four-star General. With different faces, backgrounds, knowledge, and experience, they serve as a significant piece to the greater force, one even receiving the Medal of Honor.
Mary Walker, a Surgeon, served voluntarily in military hospitals during the Civil War since she was not able to enlist. Having been captured as a POW and released, she worked again serving female POWs for the duration of the war. Following the war, she was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson as a civilian.
In 1917, Dr. Walker’s medal was rescinded along with 910 others that had been awarded to civilians for their service during the war. Stubbornly, she refused to give back her medal and wore it till she died two years later. She surely makes us smile because she reminds us of many female veterans we all know today. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter restored the honor to her.
Dr. Walker was just one of millions of women who have honorably served our country throughout it’s history.
At Planting Roots today, we’d like to salute those women who have served, impacting not only those around them but also making a difference in history due to their integrity, courage, and strength. We have a few female veterans that have a special place in our hearts because they serve with us here at Planting Roots. We’ve shared them below, including some of their favorite moments or things they learned in military service.
Today our hat is off to all veterans for your service to our nation. You are our nation’s best.
I spent eight years wearing the uniform. Choosing just one favorite memory is difficult, as there were many. I had moments when I was proud – proud of my accomplishments, proud of my peers, and proud of those who served under me. Then there were the moments that were so fun that I can’t help but smile when I think back, like jumping out of an airplane, roping out of a helicopter, hooking up equipment to be air assaulted across the desert, learning how to rig a bulldozer to be pushed out of a C-130 and land completely intact, and, of course, taking a break from training and celebrating Army tradition with a birthday ball or St Barbara’s Day ball.
One of my favorite memories, though, is when my soldier husband and I met and had the opportunity to serve together as a dual military family in both Korea and Fort Campbell, Kentucky. God had His hand in our union from the beginning. We were both scheduled to PCS to different locations from Korea, but at the last minute my husband’s orders were changed to Fort Campbell, allowing us to start our married military life together. Not only did we get stationed together, but we ended up in the same brigade! This, in turn, allowed us to deploy to the same location together. Though we weren’t able to share a tent together as husband and wife while we were deployed, this allowed us to see each other most days and eased our anxiety for one another. Throughout the time we were a dual military couple, God showed up in so many ways and displayed His never-ending love for us.
Each November, friends and complete strangers take time to thank veterans for their service to our nation. When I am thanked for my naval service, and when my husband and kids are thanked for being a retired Air Force family, I always feel a bit odd.
The reality, for me, is that I routinely thank the military for what it taught me.
- To miss the mark. I’m the first one to admit being squeamish about blood. The military wanted a vial of my blood on a regular basis, despite my dread. I would take time on weekends and on leave to donate blood at local blood drives in order to “get better” at donating blood. For more than fifteen years, I applied the “can-do” mindset of training myself to overcome that personal hurdle. After multiple episodes of passing out and twitching on the floor, I decide to forego being part of others’ incident reports. I allowed myself to have tried, tried again, and to still have missed the mark.
- To be the target. The military experience developed a “lean in” mindset for life. Without thinking, I’ve found myself running toward a car accident, breaking the fall of a woman who had an overdose, and staring down bullies in action. Each of those scenarios carried a measure of risk had things gone south. Nonetheless, military training propelled me forward without second thoughts.
- To forgive our enemies. We have seen the evil that is afflicted on the weak and marginalized. I spent a year in Panama during the Noriega and narco-trafficking heyday – and that place was DARK. Living in the battleground between good and evil helped me understand the price I was willing to pay for good to triumph. I learned to keep short (well, shorter) accounts by doing the hard work of forgiving others in order to live a less encumbered life post-military.
My entire adult life has been spent walking out my Christian faith within the military community—while in uniform, while a military spouse, and now while carrying a retired dependent ID card. The military experience is a demanding taskmaster. However, as a Jesus-follower, each military lesson can also be framed as a faith lesson. Thanks be to God for the lessons the military and my faith have taught this one, Navy-proud veteran.
One of the most unique experiences I had in uniform was a chance encounter with Kurdish Soldiers. I was part of a convoy that traveled from Balad Airbase to the Turkish border with the Inspector General and the senior Chaplain for the COSCOM. Along the way we stopped at an outpost, where the Chaplain wandered off from his security detail and into one of the buildings. We searched for him inside and were met by friendly Kurdish Soldiers fighting for freedom in the region. From the roof of their position, we could look over the Tigris River into Syria to the northwest and Turkey to the north. It was obvious these Soldiers rarely encountered women in 2003, let alone a woman wearing a uniform and combat boots carrying an M16. Many of them wanted to have their picture taken with me. One even placed a poppy through one of the loops on my flak vest. They offered us tea and a lesson in speaking Kurd. Seated on the floor around a low table while our tea cooled, I wrote many of the words phonetically in red ink as they attempted to teach me to pronounce them. But, the truth was we didn’t need words to communicate that day. Their hospitality and our willingness to listen created something special. This sweet memory of peacefully crossing cultural boundaries despite a war raging all around us will stick with me for life. The desire for meaningful connection overrode our fear instinct in those moments. I pray this spirit of calmness, curiosity, and camaraderie will be one I carry with me all my days.
OTHER VETERANS HERE AT PLANTING ROOTS