2013 Ohio Women’s Veterans Conference

On 28 September, 2013, I had the pleasure of attending the Ohio Women’s Veterans Conference in Columbus, Ohio.  There were several tables set up by various organizations such as the VFW, the American Legion, job and business networks, and the VA.  There was also a panel of veteran’s representatives who discussed the benefits available for us and answered any questions and issues we had.

The keynote speaker was former Army PFC Jessica Lynch, who gave a very powerful description of her experience as a POW during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was very articulate, poised, stoic, and matter of fact. Her autobiography is told in the book: I Am A Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story.

To say that she is a tough little Soldier, is an understatement.  She was deployed with the 507th Maintenance Company (based at Ft. Bliss, Texas) when her convoy was ambushed after their Captain got them lost and they made a wrong turn into enemy territory, near Nasiriyah.  They came under a barrage of small arms fire and RPGs. During the ensuing battle, some of her fellow Soldiers including her best friend, were killed.  Others were also taken prisoner and some died later as a result of their wounds. Lynch was knocked unconscious, badly wounded, and taken prisoner. She showed a slide of her injuries. It was incredible. She had suffered a severe head laceration, a broken leg, a broken arm, cracked ribs, and a dislocated ankle. For nine days as a POW, she received no food, no water, and no pain medication. The Iraqi “doctors” decided to replace her broken femur with an unsterilized circa 1940’s metal rod. Infection ensued and they discussed amputation. After nine days of being shuffled around from place to place, starved, dehydrated, maltreated, and dying, she was finally rescued by Special Forces.

The one recurring theme throughout her speech was perseverance. Her courage and determination enabled her to survive a horrendous ordeal.  She endured 21 surgeries, multiple blood transfusions, and months of rehab. Her body will always bear the scars, she still has nightmares, and still grieves over the loss of her comrades, but she ‘feels blessed’ to be here. Her mantra:  ‘Never give up, persevere, conquer your fears’.  When I shook her hand, I remarked: “You are a very brave young Soldier”.  She replied: “I had no choice, I had to be”.  What an incredible gal.

A recent interview:

News coverage of her homecoming:

Women are the fastest growing subpopulations of veterans, based on active duty and recruiting numbers, and the percentage of female veterans is increasing. As of Sept. 30, 2012, there were 2.24 million women among 22.3 million living U.S. veterans.

I felt honored and privileged to be in the company of 750 fellow women veterans that day.  They spanned generations from WWII to the present. The oldest was a 91 year-old from WWII, the youngest a 23 year-old who served in Afghanistan.

I served two combat tours in Iraq, myself.

Women have been in war and combat since time immemorial.

The service and sacrifice of women who have served the United States from the Revolutionary War to the current the War against Islamic terrorism should never be forgotten.

Related post:

Women in Combat: Been There, Done That

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