The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the site for a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery honoring the contributions of women in the military. The ceremony begins at 3:00 p.m. EST at the Gateway to Arlington and includes formal military honors, speakers, and wreath-laying. The event is free and open to the public.
The women’s memorial represents all branches of the military and the various roles of women from the American Revolution through present day. In the 18th and 19th centuries, women’s roles in the military ranged from nursing in field hospitals to assembling care packages. They helped with raising money for the war and writing letters for wounded soldiers.
During World War II, they served overseas and at home in such capacities as factory workers, pilots, civil defense workers, and in the medical field. The Korean Conflict and the Cold War saw women in the military take on a more global role as well as recruiting stateside. The exhibit about the Vietnam War honors the 197,500 women who served in the Unites States military between 1964 to 1975. Since Sept. 11, 2001, women have fought in the War on Terror by serving as MPs, cooks, pilots, engineers, translators, doctors, nurses, and in many other capacities. In addition, numerous photographs and journals have been donated that are part of the exhibit.
This Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington is unique in that it is specifically honoring women who have military service. The memorial site is a curved retaining way that stands 30 feet high at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. A reflecting pool is in front of the wall and an Education Center is behind the wall. The education building holds a 196-seat theater, exhibits, gift shop, and a computerized database listing women who are either veterans or currently serving, and who have registered with the memorial. Visitors can view Washington, DC, from one of four staircases.
The design for the Women’s Memorial was selected in a national contest. Out of 130 entries, the winning design by Michael Manfredi and Marion Gail Weiss was chosen in November, 1989. It was unanimously approved Apr. 6, 1995, by the Fine Arts Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission. The dedication was held Oct. 18, 1997, and has since attracted 200,000 visitors a year.
In addition to the Veterans Day service, there is also a temporary exhibit, In A Heart Beat. This is made up of photographs by Therese A. Hughes. The exhibit focuses on 90 women veterans who have served between World War II and the War on Terror. These images reflect both strength and emotion, courage and humanity, women face in the line of military duty. This is part of a much larger exhibit that will include 1,200 women veterans. The exhibit is on display through September 2015.
Veterans Day ceremonies around the nation honor those who served both stateside and foreign locations. They include those who were on the front lines and working behind the scenes. The Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington highlights and honors the women who have been and continue to be active in military service.
By Cynthia Collins
Photo credit: Marion E – Creativecommons Flickr license