Honoring our Nation’s Heroes, Past and Present
May 24, 2016
By Hope Royer
GFWC Public Issues Chairman
There is no better time than now, as we approach Memorial Day amidst Military Appreciation Month, to recognize the nation’s nearly three million women veterans, past and present. Theirs is a living legacy of service.
GFWC clubwomen will organize and attend community-wide celebrations on Memorial Day in honor of all of our nation’s veterans. We will fly the flag of the United States of America with pride in salute to all those who have served our country.
Members continue to make financial contributions to the Women In Military Service For America Memorial. Clubs are encouraged to participate in the Tell 3 Women—Pay Forward the Legacy campaign, one of the latest efforts of the Women In Military Service For America Foundation to help guarantee that the names of military women will not be lost to history. The effort asks that each of us seek out three women veterans and help them register for inclusion in the Memorial. Registration forms are available online or by calling 1-800-222-2294.
GFWC clubwomen have developed projects specifically designed to support women in military service. Clubs see that USO Centers are kept stocked with beauty and cosmetic products. Clubs provide welcome home baskets of beauty supplies to returning service women. Veterans and military family members who are maternity patients at our nation’s Veterans Hospitals are showered with baby products. Clubs invite local women veterans to attend club meetings and social events.
Clubwomen also honor our nation’s female veterans by supporting legislation through the GFWC Legislative Action Center. Recently, clubwomen across the country contacted their Congressional representatives and urged them to support legislation that would allow Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) to be buried at Arlington Cemetery.
Between 1942 and 1944, 1,102 women were trained to become WASPs, and flew non-combat military missions while their male counterparts were deployed to combat. Collectively these women flew 60 million miles across the United States in every type of military aircraft. Despite their service, they were ineligible for officer status and were never awarded full military status. They had to pay their own way home after the war. Thirty-eight women died while serving their country, and their families were forced with the cost of transporting their bodies and arranging burials.
In 1977, WASPs were granted veterans’ status. However, a recent policy change made by the Army prevents WASPs from being buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
GFWC supported legislation to honor these female veterans and reinstate WASP inurnment rights. On May 11, Congress passed this legislation. It is now headed to President Barack Obama for a signature.
Thanks to the efforts of GFWC clubwomen who wrote letters urging Congress to support this legislation, female veterans like Elaine Harmon will be honored with a burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
As you make plans for this weekend, remember to take time to recognize and support women veterans, as well as those currently serving in the military. Send a message of support and gratitude to our services members through the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Visit www.uso.org/message/thanks-a-million to submit your message, and the USO will deliver it in centers across the world.
How does your club support women in military service?
Melanie Carriker Stevens
Melanie Carriker Stevens understands GFWC tradition and legacy. Daughter of GFWC Communications and PR Chairman Wendy Carriker, Melanie was inspired to form the GFWC Legacy Woman's Club, which celebrates the dedication of grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins. The GFWC Legacy Club received its charter at the 2015 GFWC Annual Convention in Memphis.
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