PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the first time in Oregon history, Gov. Kate Brown has declared a state holiday recognizing women veterans.
Wednesday, June 12 is now known as Women Veterans Day.
The date also marks the 71st anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which acknowledged the contributions made by women in the military and finally enabled them to serve as regular members of the U.S. Armed Forces and Reserves.
From a young age, Fitzpatrick knew she wanted to be a soldier.
“My favorite toys were plastic guns and my little Army hat,” she told KOIN 6 News.
Fitzpatrick entered the Army right after college. However, she admits there were challenges as a woman.
“When I was in Korea for my first tour, I was the only female officer as a brand-new second lieutenant in a large area,” she said. “I didn’t have a lot of female colleagues for a long time.”
Her love for the Army was greater than any of the obstacles, so she stayed motivated.
“Often over the centuries we’ve had to work twice as hard to get half the recognition, but women will do it,” Fitzpatrick said. “Women are very capable, dedicated and self-sacrificing.”
Highlights in Fitzpatrick’s service includes serving as second lieutenant in the Army, company commander for the 2nd Armored Division in Fort Hood, Texas, teaching at West Point and becoming the public affairs officer for the 24th Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Where women started and where they are today
According to ODVA, women have served in U.S. wars and conflicts since the American Revolution — traditionally serving as nurses, cooks, spies and in administrative support roles. During World War I, women were allowed to enlist as yeomen in the Navy and reservists in the Marine Corps, filling in for men who were deployed to the battlefields in Europe.
Currently, women make up more than 16% of the country’s military forces with more than 25,000 women veterans living in Oregon.
“To be able to elevate the women in the service they had in the military and country is heartening and shows the governor’s support of our veterans in Oregon,” Fitzpatrick told KOIN 6 News.
California, New York and Texas have also designated June 12 as Women Veterans Day. However, several U.S. senators introduced a resolution designating a Women Veterans Appreciation Day.
From Friday until Monday, the “I Am Not Invisible” exhibit will be on display in Oregon’s Capitol Rotunda. It features 20 portraits of Oregon women military veterans.