Susan B. Anthony
Women have made significant contributions to all branches of the military for decades despite the fact that they were only recently granted the right to serve on the front lines. This Veterans Day, which will be celebrated on November 11th, it is important to give gratitude to both the men and women who have courageously served our country.
Vernice Armour, born in 1973, made history as the Marine Corps’ first African American female pilot. Armour was influenced by her father, a retired major in the US Army Reserves, and her step father, a retired marine, as she grew up in Memphis Tennessee. Upon entering her freshman year at Middle Tennessee State University, Armour enrolled in the Army ROTC program. She was inspired to become a pilot when she saw a young, African American, female pilot at an ROTC career day. Vernice took several years off from school in order to graduate from the Nashville Police Academy as a Police Officer in 1996. Soon after, in 1997, she graduated from MTSU with a B.S. in Special Education. On December 12th, 1998, Vernice was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. She finally finished flight school in 2001 at the top of her 12-person class, and out of the last 200 graduates. She made the Naval Air Station’s prestigious Commodore’s List and received the Academic Achievement Award in the Marine Corps. She was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near San Diego. Armour was recognized as the first African American female combat pilot during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She has completed two additional combat tours in the Gulf. She’s created a global movement based on the Breakthrough Mindset, traveling internationally and inspiring young people to take responsibility, accountability, and “step up and lead."
Wolma Vaught was the first woman to deploy with an Air Force bomber unit, and the first woman to reach the rank of Brigadier Genderal from the comptroller field. Vaught graduated from the UICU College of Business in 1952 and received her M.B.A. from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1968. In August 1972, she became the first female Air Force officer to attend the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort Lesley J. McNair. Vaught joined the military in the 1950s, when there were strong restrictions on the number of women who could be in the military and the capacity in which they could serve. Some of these policies changed in 1967 due to an increased need for human resources caused by the Vietnam War. Vaught then became an officer and was deployed to Vietnam. Vaught served as the senior military representative to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services and was chairperson of the Committee of Women in the NATO Armed Forces. She also served as president of the board of directors of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. She was the only woman in history to hold this position. Concerned that the role of women in the military was going unnoticed, Vaught pushed for a memorial as the leader of the Women in Miliatary Service to America Memorial Foundation. The result was the Woman in Military Service for America Memorial beign built at the entrance to Arlingotn National Cemetary. In 2000, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 2010, she was inducted into the Army Women’s Foundation hall of fame.
Hazel Johnson Brown
Hazel Johnson Brown is a retired nurse and educator who served with the U.S. Army from 1955-1983. She was born in 1927 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She and her six siblings grew up on her father’s farm in Chester County. At twelve years old, Hazel was inspired to become a nurse when she had an encounter with a local white public health nurse. She was rejected from the West Chester School of Nursing because she was black. After her application was dismissed, she moved to New York City and enrolled in the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing in 1947. While in college, she was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She joined the army in 1955 after President Harry Truman banned segregation and discrimination in the armed forces. She served as a staff nurse in Japan and the Chief nurse in Korea. While in the army, Johnson-Brown earned a master’s degree in nursing education from Columbia University and a doctorate in education administration from Catholic University of America. She was Assistant Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing from 1976-1978. In 1979, she became the first black female general in the United States Army and the first black chief of the Army Nurse Corps. During her time in the military, she served as the Director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing, project director at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command in Washington D.C., and special assistant to the chief of the U.S. Army Medical Command in Korea. Additionally, taught nursing at Georgetown University and George Mason University. Johnson-Brown sadly passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in August 2011.
Grace Murray Hopper
Grace Murray Hopper was a computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral. She was born in 1906 in New York City and expressed interest in mathematics and technology from a very young age. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College in 1928 with a degree in math and physics. She went on to earn her Master’s degree from Yale in 1930. She obtained her Ph.D. in math from Yale in 1934 and then began teaching at Vassar in 1941. Hopper took a leave of absence during World War II in 1943 and was sworn into the US Navy Reserve. She trained at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School and graduated first in her class. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University as a lieutenant, junior grade. She continued working at the Harvard Computation lab until 1949, when she took a job with the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation as a senior mathematician. She contributed to defining the computer language, COBOL, which is the most ubiquitous business language to date. Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve at age 60 with the rank of Commander, but was recalled to active duty indefinitely in 1967. After appearing in 60 Minutes, the U.S. House of Representatives promoted her to commodore by special presidential appointment. She officially retired in 1986 and was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat award possible by the Department of Defense. At the time of her retirement, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the United States (nearly 80 years old). She passed away in 1992 at 85 years old.
Margaret A. Brewer
Margaret A. Brewer was the first female in the US Marine Corps to reach the rank of general officer. Brewer was born in 1930 and was raised in Durand Michigan, Brewer attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in geography in 1952 and was also a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Not even a year after her graduation, in March of 1952, Brewer was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant. She held various military positions throughout her military career, including serving as the Commanding Officer of the Women Marine companies, Platoon Commander for women officer candidates, Executive Officer of the Woman Officer School, Public Affairs Officer, and Lieutenant Colonel for the 6th Marine Corps District. Before she was selected as the Director of Women Marines in 1973, she was the Special Assistant to the Director, and then the Chief of the Support Department at the Marine Corps Education Center. She was presented the Legion of Merit by the Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1977. In 1978, while serving as the Deputy Director of the Division of Information for the Marine Corps Headquarters, she was nominated for appointment to the grade of brigadier general. She assumed duty as Director of Information on May 11th, 1978, at which time she became the first female general officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. She retired in 1980 and became active in the Catholic Charities of Arlington County and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. She worked toward the creation of the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the Women in Military Service for American Memorial. She passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2013.