From Disguise to the World Stage: Women in the Military

By Jenna Maunsell

by ELYSIAN Magazine

Women have had a long history of serving in the American military in both official and unofficial capacities. 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, women were confined to working as cooks, seamstresses, and nurses. However, in 1941, their roles evolved with the formation of the Women’s Army Corps, and again in 1978, when women were integrated into the military with the exception of service in combat. Any barrier or restriction that was put in place of women serving has been overcome with determination and fortitude. 

As of 2015, there were no more restrictions related to what positions women can hold in their service. 

Serving one’s country is the ultimate sacrifice. It is one that requires immeasurable strength and unending selflessness. Even when women were barred from service in every branch, they still served – they served in many positions, some even in disguise. During the Civil War, it is estimated that over 1,000 women dressed as men and fought in the Union and Confederate forces. These brave women were not deterred by rules and regulations. They were, instead, empowered and emboldened. 

 In 1917, the Navy released a memo stating that women could enlist. Loretta Walsh courageously answered this call. 

Walsh was the first woman to serve in a non-nursing capacity in any branch of the armed forces. A month after her enlistment, the United States entered World War I. At the end of the war, 12,000 women had enlisted in the Navy. Beginning in December 1941, approximately 350,000 women served in the American armed forces in World War II – each playing pivotal roles that significantly contributed to victory. Trailblazers, like Loretta Walsh, helped women in the armed forces reach their rightful place and achieve their full potential. Today, women make up roughly 20 percent of the Navy.  

This year, the U.S. Navy celebrated 50 years of women flying in the Navy in a special way. For the first time ever, the team of pilots conducting the flyover for the Super Bowl was made up of all women. The Super Bowl flyover tradition is more than a half-century old; It is a display of power and honor that is seen across the country at arguably the biggest sporting event of the year. 

The flyovers for the Super Bowl alternate between the military branches. No matter which branch leads the flyover, each one demonstrates the expertise and mastery of our military. It provides the rare opportunity for the public to catch a glimpse of the hard work and serious training military service members go through on a regular basis. Amid the flashing lights and loud noise, the flyover serves as a powerful symbol of support for our military and gratitude for our freedom.  

To have a group of all female pilots conducting the flyover is an inspiring statement – one that only begins to recognize the true dedication to service that women have shown through American history. 

As the eyes of the nation turned to the stadium in Arizona, it is moving to think of all the young girls at home who looked at the pilots and began to dream that they too could achieve such renown – that they too could become a part of the tradition of female aviation in America. 

From soldiers who had to disguise themselves as men to pilots on one of the world’s biggest stages, women in the Navy and the other branches of the U.S. military have come a long way and deserve to be recognized and celebrated every day.

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