by Tech. Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
Air Force News Service
3/23/2013 - FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- In
the 1940s, women's roles in the military were much different than they
are today. Women's auxiliary units had just begun to integrate with the
service branches and people were concerned about how females serving
would affect the nation. One southern congressman even addressed the
House saying, "Who will then do the cooking, the washing, the mending,
the humble homely tasks to which every woman has devoted herself; who
will nurture the children?"
Prior to World War II, women serving in the Women's Army Auxiliary
Corps, and similar organizations, did not receive comparable benefits
and compensation to their male counterparts. In 1943, the War Department
created the Women's Army Corps as an official branch of the Army to
help bridge those gaps.
Since then, women's roles in the military have expanded and women have
been accepted as valuable and equal members of the services. But one
thing has remained the same: some female veterans don't identify as
In an interview with NBC News, John E. Pickens III, the executive
director of VeteransPlus, said women veterans "are misunderstood and
challenged in a number of ways. Typically, folks look at male veterans
returning as warriors who we need to honor and say we need to do what we
can for these warriors. Women, unfortunately, don't carry home that
same mantel as a warrior. But they certainly have served beside the men
and, in many cases, have done a lot of things that put themselves as
Dr. Lynn Ashley, who served as a WAC in Carlsbad, N.M., encourages her
fellow female veterans to stand up and be recognized for their service
to their country.
Ashley, a Chicago native, joined the WAC because she wanted to do
something to serve her country. Her brother was serving overseas in the
war and she wanted to do her part to support him. She went to basic
training in Oglethorpe, Ga., and after being trained as a clerical
typist, she was one of about 45 WACs stationed at Carlsbad. She served
there for two years, until the war was over and then returned to
She went back home and got married and began having a family. Ashley
said she became engrossed in family life and began thinking about her
time as a WAC less and less. But After about 30 years of being out of
the service, the spark in her was reignited. She began attending
national WAC conventions, but that didn't satisfy her need to support
female veterans, so she and a fellow WAC reached out to the governor of
their state, Ohio.
Originally, their goal was to get money from the state for the Women's
Memorial in Washington. They didn't get the funds they had hoped for,
but instead the governor appointed them to the Department of Veterans
Services' Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.
"One of the things we did is a study on women veterans in the state of
Ohio," Ashley said. "It found the same issues going on then that
veterans are dealing with now - lack of recognition, lack of support,
low income, finding a job, getting housing. There were women who had
master's degrees who couldn't find work. That's why I've continued to
support women veterans."
Through her local American Legion chapter, also she helped lobby to open
up combat positions to women. This year, to Ashley's satisfaction, the
Defense Department officially did just that.
Nearly 70 years after her own service in the military, Ashley continues to encourage, support and educate female veterans.
"You're not a half a Soldier, you're not a half a person," Ashley said.
"You have the same rights as anyone else has, no matter what gender.
You've served your country."