Women's Memorial Seeks More Active Duty Women
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 16, 1997 Wilma L. Vaught is perplexed, disappointed and baffled by the meager number of women, particularly those on active duty, who have registered with the Women's Memorial.
"We thought at least 350,000 women would register, but it doesn't look like we'll have that many," said Vaught, president of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Inc. With the Oct. 18 dedication day looming, only about 11,000 of more than 200,000 women on active duty have registered, she said.
Registration by women veterans is also disappointing, Vaught said. There are 1.2 million women veterans in the nation, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Only 117,000 have registered, most from the World War II era. More than 1.8 million women have served in the armed forces starting with the American Revolution.
Registering is easy, said Vaught, a retired Air Force brigadier general. Eligible women -- or their descendants or friends -- can obtain registration forms by writing to:
The Women's Memorial
Washington, DC 20042-0560.
For more information, call (800) 222-2294. Send e-mail request for registration forms to firstname.lastname@example.org. The foundation's Internet web site address is: http://www.wimsa.org/pub/wimsa/.
The registration form requires the woman's name, date and place of birth, hometown, service branch, highest rank, military awards and decorations. The registrant also may include most memorable experiences and photographs.
Memorial officials request a $25 donation upon registration to help defray construction costs, but the tax-deductible donation isn't a prerequisite. The Women's Memorial is a Combined Federal Campaign beneficiary.
All women with military experience are eligible, including those on active or reserve component duty, veterans living and deceased, and members of service auxiliaries (such as the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps during World War II) and uniformed corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. Red Cross, USO and Special Service members who served overseas in direct support of the armed forces during conflicts are also eligible in the "We Also Served" category.
The memorial, at the gates of Arlington National Cemetery on the Virginia side of the Potomac River opposite the Lincoln Memorial, recognizes women who served in the armed forces. It documents their experiences and tells their stories of service, sacrifice and achievement, Vaught said.
The information will be in the memorial's education center to document and preserve the individual and collective histories of women who have served in defense of the nation.
"What convinces active duty women to register is another active duty person telling them about the memorial, getting them excited and explaining why the memorial is important," Vaught said. She believes active duty women should register to join "the long line of women who stepped forward and served their country in the armed forces."
"When you register, in a sense you're paying tribute to those who preceded you," she said. "If they had not done well, you might not have had the opportunity to be doing what you do in the military today. Taking pride in registering says you're appreciative of what they did."
Many women haven't registered because they wrongly view the memorial as being mostly for women who served in World War II, she said. It is true more of them have registered than veterans of any other era, but age isn't a prerequisite for membership in the Women's Memorial, Vaught noted.
She said women in today's military are not bonded and networked as their World War II counterparts were and remain today. During the war years, women worked, lived, trained and went overseas together in tight little groups such as the WACs [Women's Army Corps], Navy WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service] and Coast Guard SPARs [Semper Paratus -- Always Ready]. After the war, they continued their togetherness by forming women's veterans organizations that still exist today.
"For more than 50 years, they've kept in contact with each other and have attended reunions and other functions together," Vaught said. "Their organizations give us names and addresses to get in touch with people. We don't have that access to active duty women."
One of the most poignant reasons to register is to have a permanent record of military service for future generations, Vaught said. "Some children of women who served in World War II don't really know what their mothers did," she said. "Some of the children hardly knew their mothers were in the war, which was a great moment in American history. Women should register so their children and grandchildren will know what they did."
Navy Chief Petty Officer Dave Evans, an Armed Forces Radio and Television Service broadcaster, registered his wife, Stephanie, a former Navy hospital corpsman.
"Three or four generations down the line, when we're long gone," Evans said, "our grandchildren, great-grandchildren and relatives can go back to that place and say: 'This is where our greataunt or greatgreatgrandmother was in the military.' It will be a resource for genealogical research."
"Being part of the Women's Memorial is a great honor," said Vernetta M. Fields, a personnel assistant in the National Guard Bureau's Human Resources Office in Alexandria, Va. "When I first heard about the Women's Memorial, I knew I wanted to be part of this awesome project. I was very enthusiastic about getting registered, so I could be a member. I hope to one day take my daughter and mother to see this wonderful memorial, so that they can share with me this awesome experience.
"I try to solicit women to register for the memorial," said Fields, also an Army National Guard staff sergeant with 129th Signal Battalion, Bel Air, Md. "Most people I talk to know about the memorial; some are already members. But I find older women -- senior officers and noncommissioned officers -- register more than younger women. Perhaps, because of their experiences in the military, they appreciate the memorial more than younger women."