We recently commemorated the 79th anniversary of D-Day and honored the bravery and courage of the Allied troops who helped bring an end to World War II. While nearly 350,000 American women enlisted in the military and served during the war, it wasn’t until the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed into law on June 12, 1948 that women were allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces as permanent members of all branches.
This was a pivotal step that formally expanded opportunities in military uniform to our nation’s women. Two years after President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act into law, 120,000 women served in active duty in the Korean War.
This year, as we are recognizing the 75th anniversary of this groundbreaking policy, I am proudly cosponsoring a Senate resolution recognizing June 12, 2023 as Women Veterans Appreciation Day.
Women have always played an integral part in defending our nation in times of peace and war. This anniversary is a reminder of the progress we’ve made and the work we must build on to support women in uniform as well as those no longer in military service.
As the son of a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, I understand the importance of ensuring our nation fulfills the promises made to those called to serve. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’ve championed initiatives to better meet the needs of women veterans – the fastest growing veteran population – including modernizing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure it has the capability to meet their unique needs.
We’ve made improvements to eliminate barriers to VA care and services with the passage of landmark legislation named in honor of a woman who concealed her identity to help defeat the British in the Revolutionary War. Deborah Sampson was known as Robert Shurtleff when she served in uniform. Even as she sustained multiple injuries, she maintained her secret by tending to her wounds without assistance. Her legacy lives on in the Deborah Sampson Act, which I led to address the gender gap at the VA by strengthening care and support for women veterans through increasing the number of gender-specific providers in VA facilities, expanding access to medical professionals who specialize in women’s health and retrofitting VA facilities to improve privacy for women veterans.
We also built on this foundation by enhancing VA mammography services and cancer care with passage of the Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act and the MAMMO for Veterans Act so we can deliver the preventative care and treatment former servicemembers have earned. The support of veteran service organizations was instrumental in getting these measures signed into law, and I remain committed to ensuring the VA is meeting the standards of care we expect so all veterans get the assistance and services they earned.
As we celebrate this milestone, we can be proud of the women who charted a new course for future generations of girls to realize their dream of serving in our nation’s uniform and holding military positions that were once unthinkable. I will continue to advocate for policies that provide these brave individuals the honor, recognition and benefits they earned.