Women Veterans a Growing Force


by The Republican

Western Massachusetts has played host to many veterans gatherings over the years, but a conference held Saturday shined a spotlight on a growing veterans group – women.

About 150 people, including Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, came to Holyoke Community College for the first Statewide Conference for Women Veterans. The event was sponsored by the Women Veterans’ Network of the state Department of Veterans’ Service.

     At the conference, women whose service spanned World War II to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could find out about services available to veterans.

Network director Heidi R. Kruckenberg said the state hopes to hold the conferences once a year.

Ever since Deborah Samson of Sharon disguised herself as a man to join the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, Massachusetts has been no stranger to women in the military.

There are currently about 27,000 women veterans in the state, including 2,465 in Hampden, 357 in Franklin and 940 in Hampshire counties.

According to 2005 U.S. census data, there were 2,100 Massachusetts women serving on active duty in America’s armed forces.

But the Massachusetts figures are just a snapshot of the growing role women are playing in the military. More recent figures indicate that women comprise about 15-20 percent of the nation’s active duty forces. They are serving and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We hope that as these women return home they do exactly as their male counterparts did in the past: Organize to ensure that their service is not forgotten and make sure their voices are heard when America goes to war again. The Women’s Veterans’ Network can play a key role to see sure they’re heard.

By the way, if you don’t think women veterans need someone fighting for them, consider Deborah Samson. She grew destitute in her old age and had to fight for a pension.

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