For fewer and fewer Americans, Memorial Day is a personal opportunity to recall the sacrifices their family members in the armed forced have made to keep our country safe.
The ties between America’s civilian population and the military are stretching thin, according to recent studies. Less than one percent of all Americans today have served on active duty.
While three-quarters of Americans ages 50 or older say they had an immediate family member who is or has been in the military, only one-third ages 18-29 can make that claim. For the younger generation, it’s increasingly possible that family relative is a mother, sister or wife.
For women, joining the military has never been more attractive. In 2010, 15 percent of the U.S. military were women. Today, 20 percent of new recruits are women.
The reasons why women join up are similar to men’s – patriotism, adventure, a job with benefits, an opportunity for tuition-free higher education, and pride. The opportunity to serve as equals is one reason why women military cheered the Pentagon’s decision earlier this year to officially open combat duty to women troops. This decision also meant greater pay and promotion opportunities for women.
Recent Congressional hearings on rape in the military have made all too clear how far military leaders must go to create equal opportunity for female soldiers. There must be zero tolerance for sexual assault in the military. The guilty must be punished and the top brass must take the lead on this issue.
Not surprisingly, women are the fastest growing group within the Veteran population. While the Veterans Administration works to accommodate the needs of 1.8 million women vets, several gaps remain. Only 14 percent of women vets access VA healthcare benefits because women’s care is fragmented and inadequate childcare is available. Sadly, 40 percent of VA homeless shelters cannot accept women veterans.
Vision 2020 urges our elected officials to make sure the VA supports women as well as men veterans. And as we put out our American flags for Memorial Day weekend, let’s give a special salute to women past and present in the U.S. military