Today is Memorial Day, the day that we mindfully set aside in order to honor those who have paid the ultimate price. Today we lay wreaths on graves and place flags in the ground, recognizing each gravesite of both men and women who have fought and died for the greater good. These courageous soldiers have battled against evil while defending those who could not defend themselves. Today it is our duty to remember the fallen.
There have been hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve died in war since the very first was waged, the American War for Independence. The countless lives lost in each battle, from the American Revolution through today’s wars in the Middle East, have left behind mothers, fathers, siblings, wives, husbands and children. It is not only those who have died who pay the price, but it is also their families—those who’ve hugged the necks of their loved ones as they left home to fulfill a call, to perform a duty, and to stand against those who sought harm.
We often remember the men who lost their lives, as we should, but at times we forget the women. Perhaps it’s a bit more uncomfortable, but we would be remiss to overlook any loss, no matter the gender.
History tells us that 60 women died in the Civil War, including one who was only known by her first name, Emily. In 1863, this young 19-year-old left home to join the Michigan Regiment. Women were not allowed in combat, so she masqueraded as a man, hiding her gender from those whom she served with until she was mortally wounded in a battle in Tennessee.
It was then, by consenting to dictate a telegram to her father in Brooklyn, that her identity was revealed. “Forgive your dying daughter. I have but a few moments to live. My native soil drinks my blood. I expected to deliver my country but the fates would not have it so. I am content to die. Pray forgive me—Emily.” Her final thoughts were of the family she loved and the battle she believed in.
Twenty-two women died in the Spanish American War, and nearly 400 in World War I. But it was in World War II that war deaths among women in the military increased exponentially. There was a high cost of human life, with over 400,000 Americans lost in the course of this war.
There was a shortage in many areas of the military, and it showed itself in our pilots, driving the Air Force to create a division for women called the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). The Army formed the WAC (Women’s Army Corp), where women served as switchboard operators, mechanics and bakers. Also created was the Army Nurse Corp, the division whose loss was most significant because of where they served, among the injured, evacuating them from the battlefield.
Perhaps it’s a bit more uncomfortable, but we would be remiss to overlook any loss, no matter the gender.
Aleda E. Lutz, born November 9, 1915 in Freeland, Michigan, graduated Nursing School and promptly enlisted in the Army Nurse Corp. While overseas, she was active in European, African, and Italian battlefields. Several times she helped evacuate wounded soldiers from the Anzio Beachhead, which was under constant fire from the German Army.
Lieut. Lutz was involved in 196 missions and had accumulated 814 hours in the air, evacuating more than 3,500 wounded men. Known as “Lutzy,” she was kind and brave while attending to the injuries of those who were airlifted out of harms way.
On the tragic day of her death, November 1, 1944, Lieutenant Lutz was transporting 15 wounded soldiers from Lyon, France to a hospital in Italy in a C-47 when they encountered a violent storm. The pilot lost control of the plane and it crashed into the side of a mountain in St. Chaumon, France. There were no survivors. Lieutenant Lutz was buried with full military honors in an American Cemetery in France.
Most recently, in the Middle East, the increase of females serving in our military has also increased the percentage of their deaths in the theater of war. They’ve lost their lives due to downed helicopters they’ve piloted, improvised explosive devices their vehicles have driven over, serving in the intelligence divisions, and running supply lines that were caught in combat.
We can never forget that the price of war is great for both men and women. We must also remember that the price is paid in the currency of lives… both those who have given their own, and those who are now missing a part of their family, adding an empty chair at the holidays, and an empty place in their hearts.
So today we will remember, and today we will honor. To the men, the women, and all who have served in paying the ultimate price, we thank you. What greater love is this than a man (or a woman) lay his life down for another.
For more history on Memorial Day, read What is the Meaning Behind Memorial Day? You may also like Grit and Grace: The Official Armor of a Military Wife.