Pearly white gravestones aligned perfectly for what looks like miles is an image easily conjured when referencing Arlington National Cemetery. You have probably even seen the white granite ‘Hemicycle’ located at the main entrance of the Cemetery. What you may not have known is that hemicycle is the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
This Memorial is the first national memorial of it’s kind to recognize all women veterans, not a specific generation or group set. Originally built in 1932, the 226-foot wide structure was intended to be part of the ceremonial entrance of Arlington, connecting multiple parts of the cemetery together. The site then became fairly neglected until 1985.
Around this time, women were already working with congress members to have a memorial recognizing all women. There was already the bronze Vietnam Women’s Memorial and a Naval memorial in the works, but the movement was to ensure all women veterans received recognition for their contributions.
In 1986, the idea for the Women’s Memorial was approved and signed into law that November. This is when Brigadier General Wilma Vaught was appointed to head the creation of the memorial. Vaught had many ideas and worked with a few different organizations and eventually landed on the Hemicycle at Arlington as the site location. The agreement, however, was the memorial would not detract from Arlington at all and the Hemicycle would be used well.
The memorial went through some design struggles and then eventually began construction in 1996. Although the construction was not fully completed, the memorial was dedicated on this day, October 18th, 1997. The first all-female fly over was also conducted during the ceremony.
The memorial’s website states “The Women In Military Service For America Memorial honors nearly 3 million women who have served or are serving in or with the US Armed Forces starting with the American Revolution.” The Memorial Foundation that supports the memorial allows women veterans to register their name and service member information so they may be ‘a part’ of the memorial. If you are interested, you can register, here. They also continue to collect artifacts from all eras of women in service to display at the memorial.
So, the next time you are in Washington D.C. and visit Arlington National Cemetery, stop by the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Remember the women who, alongside their brothers, have also fought and sacrificed for this great nation.
Happy Dedication Day Women in Military Service for America Memorial!