The Memorial Day weekend is upon us. Many people near me are preparing for their annual trek to “the shore” to welcome the newest summer season. We will make the trip this year along the crowded Atlantic City Expressway, not as a traditional event, but to celebrate our middle grandson’s 8th birthday. What a great place for an 8 year old to kick off his new year and the unofficial start of summer!
Aside from the cookouts and parties there will parades and memorial services throughout our country to remember the people who died while serving in our armed forces. Originally known as Decoration Day, the tradition began in the years following the Civil War and became a federal holiday in 1971.
Women were instrumental in decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers and today this remains a common event. Passing by a cemetery on Memorial Day may offer a colorful visual of red, white and blue.
Since the American Revolution women have volunteered in defense of our great nation. Over 24,000 women served in World War I, filling nursing roles and adminstrative defense jobs as well as a number of combat-related positions. Throughout the history of war there have always been women in combat related jobs. I have been surprised by the numbers in some of the research I am doing. I do not remember learning about women combat heroes as a child, but I am reading about them now. Rather fascinating, but not shocking from an ability standpoint.
Today more than 200,000 women are in active duty military. This includes close to 70 generals and admirals. About 3% of enlisted women were in front-line units in a 2013 report. While there was an official ban on combat, women who servied in Iraq and Afghanistan routinely found themselves engaged in firefight. Women made up 67 of the 3500 American soldiers killed in Iraq and 33 of the 1700 killed in Afghanistan. More than 900 other women soldiers were wounded.
I am glad I did some research on this topic. It gives me a better understanding of the roles women have played in the armed services, and a reminder that Memorial Day is an important day.
Enjoy your long weekend! Maybe I will see you on the ACE! Oh, and happy birthday Luke!!
As I continue my research for my project I am amazed by the number and variety of stories about women over the age of sixty.
How about the Sun City Poms, a group of women cheerleaders from Arizona. Holding gold pom poms and dressed in sparkly costumes, these women put on more than 50 shows per year. While many of these women had early careers, they had not been professional cheerleaders. Now performing more than 50 shows per year, the Poms step out of their comfort zone as they practice three times a week and learn new dance moves. They just finished their last performance of the season at a fund raiser event. I am looking forward to talking with some of these inspiring women soon.
How about the now 69 year old woman who became the mother of twins at age 60? What motivated her to do this and how has this changed her life? As a grandmother of three active boys, who visit and then go home to their parents, I am curious as to where this woman finds her energy and inspiration to handle the demands of parenting at this age.
How about Norma, an 80 year old woman who decided she was bored sitting at home after her retirement from nursing. Norma went back to school at 70 to earn a degree in education so she could ensure she had a new career that didn’t require heavy lifting and night shifts.
There are countless other women I am speaking with who contine to inspire me and remind me every day that age is just a number.
Some of you may have heard of the Penn Relays, the oldest track event in the United States. The yearly competition has been around since 1895 and brings thousands of participants to Philadelphia from all over the United States and abroad.
Not being a runner myself I pay minor attention to the event. I usually know a couple of people taking part in the competition, thus my casual interest.
This year I wasn’t aware of any of my friends running but as I followed the results something caught my eye that made me stop and read further.
A 100 year old woman, Ida Keeling, had just set the world record for the 100 meter dash at the Penn Relays. Ida was grouped with competitors aged 80 and up. She finished the race in 1 minute and 17.33 seconds. This is the fastest time ever recordered for a centenarian.
What makes this 100 year old woman so resilient? She did not enter her first road race until she was 67 years old!
If you would like to watch the clip of the race and read her interview in Runner’s World check out the link below:
I am on a quest to meet Ida and hear the rest of her story.
P.S. I just went for a walk….