Hampton VA Medical Center
Honoring History of Women in Uniform
March celebrates National Women’s History Month, an annual observance which encourages us to consider the role of women in U.S. history – a role that embodies a tradition of service as old as the Nation itself.
Over the years, caregivers of Veterans and women who have worn the uniform themselves have found inspiration in the achievements of pioneering women who preceded them: from “angels of the battlefield” like Dorothea Dix, to innovators like Admiral Grace Hopper. That idea is captured perfectly in this year’s Women’s History Month theme – “Our History is our Strength” – and remains as true in 2011 as at any time in the past.
Such is the story of Army medic Sgt. Monica Brown. She points to her mother, a nurse, and her aunt, a hospital department head, as catalysts for her career in health care. She also credits a female drill sergeant she met early in her training with helping her master her fear while earning her jump wings.
“Her independence and her strong personality set her apart,” Brown said. “She was from the 82nd [Airborne Division] and had that maroon beret and the airborne patch. I wanted to be high-speed like that ... I wanted to be like her.”
The then 18-year-old Brown became a role model herself in April 2007, when she repeatedly risked her life to protect and treat fellow soldiers injured when their Humvee exploded and they came under enemy fire in a remote part of Afghanistan. For her selfless actions that day, she received the Silver Star – the nation’s third-highest combat medal.
“Our History is our Strength.” Tammy Duckworth, VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, reinforces that idea often—and always on the first Monday of every pay period. On that day, every new employee joining VA in the nation’s capital reports to Central Office for “on-boarding.” And on that day, Assistant Secretary Duckworth makes it a point to join them, to talk about her military service and the critical role VA plays in the lives of all Veterans.
The Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 enabled VA to dramatically improve its programs for women Veterans and to begin establishing state-of-the-art facilities and programs focused on women’s health – including eight Comprehensive Women’s Health Centers. Today, comprehensive health care for women Veterans is the rule in VA facilities, rather than the exception, and the Women Veterans Health Program Strategic Plan guides our continued efforts there.
And since its creation in 1994, VA’s Center for Women Veterans has helped the Department develop a unified approach to serving women Veterans and works closely with Veterans service organizations, women’s organizations, state agencies, and other entities to recognize and honor women Veterans. The “Her Story” feature on the VA Website enables women Veterans to share their experiences and stories, and to gain strength from the stories of others.