SERVING OUR VETERANS: U.S. female veterans
Throughout the history of our nation, women have greatly contributed to the support of our military. However, their contributions are often overlooked and their service under appreciated. Looking back, statistics indicate 359 women in the military died in WWI, 543 in WWII, two in Korea, and eight in Vietnam. As their role in different military classifications has continued to increase, so have the deaths. To date, over 200 women have died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 200,000 women are serving in our military today. Of that number, 2.7% are serving in front line duty. The number of U.S. female military veterans has grown to 1.6 million. Yet, they often seem to receive less honor and recognition compared to their male counterparts. This is not the way it should be.
We have several female veterans living in Pierce County. Clarence Larson Legion Post #23 is fortunate to have one long-standing and active female veteran on our roster. Her name is Sheila Ostrem. Speaking on behalf of our Post, we feel honored to have her as a comrade with us. Sheila grew up on a farm southwest of Rugby. She is the second of six children. After graduating from Rugby High School in 1973, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served on active duty for two years. She received her basic training in Orlando, Florida and was then sent to a Naval Air Station at Beeville, Texas. There she served her remaining active duty service time performing administrative and pilot logging duties. I asked her why she enlisted. She responded by saying she was young, and had some career goals in mind, but college was not affordable. The Vietnam War was winding down and the military was recruiting females and offering good benefits. Looking back, Sheila feels she joined the military for the right reasons which helped to sustain and motivate her during her active duty time.
After leaving the Navy and returning home, she joined the Rugby American Legion. She told me she is proud to be a veteran and joining the Legion was her way of continuing to serve her country and her fellow veterans. As she said, “The training one receives in the military never goes away.” She hopes the example she is setting will encourage other women who have served to become more actively involved, also. Sheila has served in several offices as a member of the Rugby Legion including Adjutant, and is presently the financial secretary. Sheila was also instrumental in organizing the chartering of our Rugby Sons of the American Legion Chapter. Several years ago, she felt the need to step up again and became a member of the Color and Honor Guard. Again, she wanted to continue finding new ways to support the American Legion, veterans, and their families. By being present as an Honor Guard member at a veteran’s funeral, she can “help give them the honor and respect they deserve.”
For Sheila’s service to our country and her continuing support of veterans, I salute and thank her. She is an exemplary role model of not only what a female veteran can be, but a role model for all veterans. So, let us truly appreciate all our female veterans for their service and sacrifices they have made for this great land of ours. Let us give them the respect and honor they have earned and deserve.