On this Memorial Day, like those who came before him, President Trump will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington Cemetery.
Most Americans are aware of the long-standing tradition at this memorial but, many Americans are not aware of another memorial just 800 yards away.
This is the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, set at the entrance of Arlington Cemetery. It is the nation’s sole memorial to women in the military, dedicated to women in all branches and chronicles women’s involvement in the U.S. military dating back to the American Revolution. Among the photos, unit patches, recruiting posters, uniforms and other memorabilia you will find a three-ring binder that holds the names and stories of the women who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. At last count, the binder contained 160 names.
On Memorial Day, we tend to think of the men who died in the service of our country, but the binder reminds us that women have also given the ultimate sacrifice. Service women have died in all major U.S. military operations. Sixteen were killed during Korea and eight women’s names are on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. World War II has seen the highest number with reports of 400 women who died in service during the war. There are over 160, and counting, women military members that have died during the Global War on Terror.
In previous conflicts, the women military members who died were overwhelmingly nurses. In some cases, the only female fatalities were from the Nurse Corp. However, this is not the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, where many of the women killed were serving in units attached to Special Operations Forces.
One such woman is Ohio native, 1 LT Ashley White. White was one of the first members of the Cultural Support Teams, the Army’s all women units working in support of and with Special Operations Forces. The Cultural Support Teams were created to build better relations with the Afghani population, in particular the Afghani women.
White was attached to an Army Ranger unit, going out on missions alongside the Rangers. She was responsible for talking with the Afghani women, gathering information and intelligence that could benefit the larger military mission. While on a patrol, White, and the Rangers she was with, were ambushed by Taliban fighters and she was killed in action. White was posthumously awarded numerous medals including the Bronze Star Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
White’s actions on that fateful day, and leading up to it, helped save the lives of her comrades and fellow soldiers.
1 LT Jennifer Moreno volunteered to join the Cultural Support Team. She left her regular position as an Army Nurse to deploy in support of the Army Rangers. Her dedication to caring for her fellow soldiers would ultimately lead to her death. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest while Moreno was on a night raid, wounding one of the Army Rangers.While moving to attend his injuries, she stepped on a landmine and was killed.
Moreno’s commander, Capt. Amanda King, said in her eulogy, “None of us would have done what you did, running into hell to save your wounded brothers, knowing full well you probably wouldn’t make it back.” For her actions, 1 LT Moreno was awarded the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star Medal among others.
These are just two examples of the hundreds of women who were willing to lay down their life for our country, volunteering for military service. So as you take time this holiday weekend to remember those who died for us, remember the women. And if you get the chance to visit Arlington Cemetery, take a moment to visit the Women in Military Service for America Memorial where you can learn about some of the remarkable things women have down in the service to our country.
Theresa Schroeder Hageman is a resident of Elida and a member of the Ohio Women Veterans Advisory Committee.