Women Veterans Achievements Recognized at Ceremony Friday
Country to honor Veterans Day on Sunday
ANCHORAGE - When Jean White enlisted in the military back in 1944 she wanted to work in aviation. She was a pilot before joining the miltiary and wanted to work with the planes. Her first choice was joining the women Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs, but a height restriction kept her out.
She was content as an aviation mechanic until her superior had a change of heart. "He said it wasn't ladylike, so he took us off the flight line." White says she wasn't happy about it, but she embraced her new role in supply. She didn't let a setback like that deter her military career, either. She served seven more years, became an officer and was in the Air Force a total of 26 years.
On Friday, she watched a young captain, Niki Martin, speak to a room of women veterans. Martin has been deployed to a war zone twice in the Army. She said even in the five and a half years she's served, she's seen more opportunities for women. She mentioned the consideration of sending women to arduous Army Ranger training and the Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan. These are teams of women that enter villages and meet with women to help gather information.
The obstacles faced by female soldiers have been more than denied promotions. Up until the '70s, a pregnant woman would be automatically discharged, a fact that one vet told me meant a woman choosing between an abortion and the military. Even now, one in five women say that during their service they are sexually assaulted or sexually harrassed.
At a recognition ceremony on Friday, the vets weren't focused on the negative. They acknowledged the unique challenges they faced, but focused on their achievements.