Honor veterans, women who serve

Ray Souder - Guest columnist

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Clinton County and our country honor the 2.1 million women veterans who have served and risked their lives to protect our freedoms during times of peace and war. We are thankful to all the generations of women veterans who have shaped our military and served our country.

There are unprecedented numbers of women comprising the U.S. military and veteran population.

Women represent 16 percent of the U.S. military force, with 363,000 women serving as active duty and reserve members. Women currently comprise nearly 20 percent of new recruits.

To date, 345,000 women have deployed since 9/11, representing more than 111 percent of deployed forces, contributing to both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq; women make up nearly 11.6 percent of these groups. Fifty-six percent of all women veterans have served during the Gulf War Era (Aug. 1990-present).

Today, women are the fastest growing veteran group, accounting for 10 percent of the veteran population, a number which is expected to increase at an average rate of about 18,000 women per year for the next 10 years.

Truly honoring women veterans begins with a culture that equally recognizes their service to our country.

According to a survey of women veterans completed in 2015, women veterans experience a greater sense of invisibility, disrespect and gender gaps than their male counterparts. In fact, another survey shows that only 37 percent of women feel “recognized, respected and valued as veterans in civilian life.”

Unfortunately, regardless of the growing presence of women, our military and veteran culture is perceived as one that is unwelcoming to women and minimizing of their contributions to our military.

On behalf of the Clinton County Veterans Service Office, Wilmington American Legion Post 49 and Wilmington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6710, we invite our community and especially all women to attend the Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11 at 10:30 a.m. at the veterans memorial at courthouse square in Wilmington. Guest speaker will be Army SFC (Ret.) Angela Beltz with the Ohio Women Veterans Advisory Committee.

Honoring women veterans is something that should not be reserved just for Veterans Day. There are things that you can do every day to show your gratitude to women who have served. It is nice to be remembered on this important holiday, but it can mean much more if you make an effort to show your thanks other times as well.

Ray Souder is Clinton County Veterans Service Officer.

Ray Souder

Guest columnist