WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 14, 2012) -- Hundreds of
women gathered on Capitol Hill, March 13, to induct into the Army
Women's Hall of Fame all those who served in Vietnam.
March 15, 2012 - The Vietnam Women's
Memorial is probably the most popular tribute to women's
contributions to the defense of the nation. It's on the Washington
Mall near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Photo by Rudi Williams,
American Forces Press Service
The afternoon event was hosted by the U.S. Army Women's Foundation,
and followed a morning event, the 4th Annual Army Women in
Transition Symposium, where former military leaders and civilians
discussed the changing roles of women serving in the Army and the
challenges faced by female Soldiers after they leave the Army --
finding employment after the Army, for instance.
afternoon, retired Maj. Gen. Dee Ann McWilliams, who now serves as
president of the foundation, discussed the challenges faced by women
who had served in Vietnam.
"The women who served in Vietnam
did it for their country -- in terrible conditions," she said. Those
women, she said, dealt with adversity, and the nurses there dealt
"with things they could not ever have been trained for the trauma,
the shock, the tropical diseases, compounded all the things that
When those women officers and enlisted came home,
she said, Americans didn't take notice of the work they had done.
"They didn't even make a ripple at home. We want to change
that today, and do our part."
More than a dozen women took
the stage at the event. All had served in Vietnam in the limited
roles for women at the time, such as nursing or clerical work.
The women, who represented all Army women who served in
Vietnam, were presented with a momento that commemorated
their service. It will be placed in the Women in Military
Service for America memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Among those in attendance was Connie Slewitzke, who had
served for one year as a nurse in Vietnam, first as a
surgical supervisor, then as a chief nurse at the
"It makes you feel good that
somebody appreciates it," Slewitzke said of the recognition.
"You never really ask for 'thank you's' from people. But it
really makes you feel good that people appreciate what you
Slewitzke said even today, she stays in touch
with the women she served with overseas. "It's camaraderie,"
she said. "You work with these people for a year, and if you
stay in the Army long enough, you keep meeting these
While she served as a major during Vietnam,
Slewitzke stayed on in the Army for 30 years, and retired in
1987 as a brigadier general.
Today, she said, she is
proud of the accomplishments that women have made in service
to their country.
For women serving now in
Afghanistan, and who had served in Iraq, Slewitzke said she
is proud of the work they are doing. They are doing jobs,
she said, that were never open to her or her fellow women
while serving in Vietnam.
"I think it's great they
are able to do that, and able to perform in an outstanding
manner," she said. "You don't hear much of this 'women can't
do this' anymore. It used to be 'oh, we can't have women in
combat.' I don't know what they call it now, but women sure
are in combat."
Not all women who served in uniform
in Vietnam were nurses -- or even officers.
Gittman served from 1968 to 1970 in Vietnam, a total of 18
months. She worked as an administrative assistant for an
engineer construction division.
"It think it's pretty
awesome," she said of the recognition. She too stays in
touch with the women she served alongside. Today, women who
served in Vietnam, from all branches of service, can
participate in the Vietnam Women Veterans Conference. This
year, Gittman will attend the event, April 26-29 in Biloxi,
Gittman had little negative to say about her
time in Vietnam, but said she wished she and her fellow
female Women's Army Corps sisters had been trained the same
way female Soldiers today are trained.
thing that would have been nice would be if we'd been able
to have weapons, or training. At least women are getting
that now. We never got that," she said.
ceased to exist in 1978, something that Gittman said she was
"If you were a WAC, you will
always be a WAC," she said. "And if you were a Soldier, you
will always be a Soldier. We could still have done the same
job if you left us the WACs. We loved being WACs. It was us
-- we think we're different."
Gittman retired from
the Army in 1982 as a sergeant first class.
in the morning, standing before the crowd at the event, Lt.
Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army's surgeon general, asked
all female officers in the audience to stand; most all were
in civilian clothing -- long since retired from the Army.
"Thank you for leading the way and making a difference,"
the general said. She is the first female to serve as the
Army's surgeon general. "It's really your shoulders that we
have been able to stand on and build and continue to move
Women today have made great advances in
where and how they can serve the Army, Horoho said, stating
that 412 of the Army's 438 military occupational specialties
and areas of concentration are now open to women. But women
have always served the military, she explained.
"Women serve and have served, with distinction, grace [and]
honor," in wars back to the Revolutionary War, Horoho said.
"Women have served honorably and have died in every single
war and every conflict that this country has fought."
To the women of the WACs, she said, "You are the bridge
that linked the WACs of World War II to today," she said.
And the women who served in Vietnam made sure Americans
didn't forget that "women could do hard work in hard
Amongst all military services, about 11,000
American women served in uniform in Vietnam. According to
the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation website, about 90
percent of those women served as nurses in the Army, Navy,
and Air Force.
By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service
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