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Guest column/Honoring sacrifice of female veterans

On June 12, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed into law the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, allowing women to serve as permanent members of the U.S. Armed Forces. As a result of President Truman’s historic action, the number of women serving has grown exponentially annually across all branches, and continues to do so today.

But women veterans’ service began long before Truman’s historic action. In fact, the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor did so for her service in the Civil War. Dr. Mary Edwards Walker became the first female U.S. Army surgeon following her commission as a Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian) by the Army of the Cumberland. Based on the recommendation of Maj. Gens. William Tecumseh Sherman and George Henry Thomas, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill on Nov. 11, 1865, to present Walker with the Medal of Honor for Meritorious Service.

Her legacy and tradition continues today, as we see women taking on a larger role fighting our nation’s wars. Across all branches, women are doing jobs that were never available to them before. For example, Capt. Emily Thompson recently became the first female pilot to fly the F-35A Lighting II in combat.

Here in Southeast Ohio, we have a strong tradition of honoring all the brave men and women who put on the uniform. In 2017, I had the privilege of sponsoring legislation to designate a portion of state Route 7 in Jefferson County as the U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Yvonne Marie Fair Memorial Highway.

Women like her continue to lead the way, and should forever be remembered for their service.

In order to cement and memorialize their tradition of honorable service, last General Assembly I introduced a bill that designates June 12 each year as Women Veterans Day to specifically recognized the thousands of women who have sacrificed and served this great nation. Today is a day to remember their stories, and the role they played in making sure our families continue to live in peace and prosperity.

Through various capacities, I have personally had the honor and privilege to work alongside female service members and veterans for nearly three decades. In my experience, these soldiers, sailors, airwomen and Marines are dedicated patriots who have greatly enhanced our ability to win our nation’s battles. Many of them return home becoming entrepreneurs and community leaders who continue to serve.

Today, we continue to take steps to ensure women veterans receive the benefits and support they deserve for their selfless service. In the most recent budget proposal, recently passed by the Ohio Senate, I worked with my colleagues on a number of provisions that will help our state’s women veterans. I am particularly proud of new funding that will specifically go to the construction of temporary housing for homeless female veterans. These new housing facilities will have a huge impact for women who have struggled since leaving the military, and will ensure they have safe places to sleep, surrounded by people who care about them and their well-being.

There are many resources available to our veterans, and I encourage my brothers and sisters in arms to take advantage of them.

Specifically, women are encourage to utilize the VA’s Women Veterans Call Center, where representatives can help you understand your VA benefits and find the right services to fit your needs. They can be reached at (855) 829-6636.

I hope you will join me this Women Veterans Day to thank all of the brave women who put country before self.

They are the sheepdogs who keep us safe, and upon which our great nation owes our gratitude.

(Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, represents the 30th District in the Ohio Senate, which encompasses Belmont, Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson, Meigs, Monroe, Noble and Washington counties as well as portions of Athens and Vinton counties.)

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