Women have only been active in the military for 70 years, but in each of those years they have joined in a significant amount, increasing every year. Compared to 1973, where enlistment of women soldiers was approximately 70,000, there are more than 200,000 women in active duty today serving in every branch of the U.S. military. Given the number of servicewomen, including having courage for being on the front lines and getting hurt, why do so few women actually receive their Purple Heart Medal? As you know, The Purple Heart is the only medal awarded to service members when they have greatly sacrificed themselves and have been injured in the line of duty. It has been known throughout history that men are usually the ones out fighting since the earliest wars. It is possible that the sheer number of men compared to women in the military today can still overshadow the many contributions that women have made. But that is unfair. With this in mind, we want to call attention to and highlight the disparities, share their stories, and acknowledge the contributions of our women vets. Based on the sheer quantity of women service members and no short supply of accomplishments and sacrifice, there should be more that have received the medal. All veterans deserve to be recognized for their sacrifices, especially from the physical, mental, and emotional scars that they will carry for the rest of their lives.
Women and the Purple Heart Medal
Women began to join the military in 1948, just three years after the end of World War II. President Harry S. Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act into law, officially allowing women to serve as permanent members of all branches of the Armed Forces. Surprisingly, there have only been approximately 500 women that have been awarded the Purple Heart medal in the entire history of the military. There is no doubt that there are more women who are eligible for the award, but either they have not applied or have not been recognized. It is extremely important to recognize the sacrifice of their bodies and minds on the battlefield because each woman in active duty has given up some important qualities of their lives for our country, including time away from their families, losing physical abilities they once had, and losing their sanity . The medal is an example of the honor that the United States bestows upon them and all of our veterans deserve this respect.
Antoinette Scott’s Story
She was actually the first woman from Washington D.C. to have received the Purple Heart. She served eight years in the D.C Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. She recalls the time her injuries happened during her mission driving a truck with soldiers to Baghdad Airport while being under attack. She managed to get the entire group to safety. She says, “There was so much going on, I didn’t have a chance to think about myself until I touched my face and I thought it was sweat and I saw blood. At that moment, I’m like, ‘Someone is bleeding,’ it wasn’t happening to me in my mind.” The truck was hit by an explosive device that led to shrapnel going through the left side of her face, breaking her jaw and a main blood vessel to her brain. She sustained life-threatening injuries, but the team she drove was able to evacuate her on time to save her life.
Marlene Rodriguez Story
She served three tours in Iraq before she had to retire and come back home. Marlene retired in 2009 due to experiencing two roadside bomb explosions and a firefight during her time in Iraq. She was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which left her disabled. She says, “I miss it so much. Just the structure, the discipline, the leadership,The honor.” As a result of her time in war, Marlene suffers from seizures, is unable to walk far due to back problems, and cannot express herself how she wants. Today, Marlene is frustrated with all the problems that will plague her for the rest of her life.
Antoinette and Marlene’s stories are just two stories of many in combat that still suffer from physical and mental injuries sustained in the battlefield. We salute and honor these two heroes, as well as countless others affected. What we are witnessing with these women is history in the making. Even today women can still become some of the first of 1,000 women to ever receive the medal, compared to more than 1 million men who have received it. These women throughout history have been soldiers, leaders and have sacrificed for the essential freedoms that we enjoy today. But unfortunately, most of them won’t receive a ticker tape parade, let alone the Purple Heart Medal. We want to encourage those who have not received the medal to apply if eligible. If you believe you know someone that does not have the medal and could be a candidate, recommend them to apply as it’s never too late to do so. Here is a website that shows the documents, resources, and examples of what needed to apply for the Purple Heart Medal.