Military service today touches an increasingly small sliver of society.
According to the Department of Defense, approximately 1.3 million Americans are actively serving in uniform. Hundreds of thousands more serve in a reserve capacity, although the total still represents well less than 1 percent of the nation’s nearly 330 million people.
For many Americans, the most direct connection to the nation’s armed forces likely comes through an older relative – a mother, father, grandmother or grandfather who may have served at a time before the all-volunteer military was established.
As we take care, collectively, to pay tribute to those who serve today, it is vital that we also remember and honor the service and sacrifice of earlier generations. As the figures show, doing so is an important part of keeping most Americans connected with their military – and reminding us all that the freedoms we enjoy do not come without cost.
The national Honor Flight Network and the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Honor Flight Hub play a crucial role in advancing this mission. The program affords veterans an opportunity to visit the nation’s war monuments in Washington, D.C., and to receive the thanks of a grateful public during their journey.
Over the weekend, the local hub facilitated its latest trip to the capital – and it was one of the history books.
Honor Flight Victory was the first in Rhode Island, and only the second nationally, to include solely women who served in uniform. All 26 veterans aboard the flight, along with their guardians, were women. Most of the guardians were also veterans. Their service spanned across the military’s branches and various conflicts, from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1.6 million women were veterans of the armed forces as of 2015. They accounted for 8.4 percent of the overall veteran population and roughly 1.2 percent of the total adult female population.
Those numbers will only grow in the years ahead, now that combat roles are no longer closed to women. And the weekend’s trip included a special tribute to a local woman warrior – it was conducted in memory of Marine Lance Cpl. Holly Charette, a Cranston resident killed while serving in Iraq in 2005.
We applaud George Farrell, the retired Providence fire chief who has spearheaded the local Honor Flight program along with the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Association, for all their efforts. We thank the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and Cranston business Beauty Lounge at Magnolia for helping to make the weekend’s trip possible. We applaud the many community members who made the early-morning trip to T.F. Green Airport to celebrate Honor Flight Victory and all of those who made the trip’s participants feel welcome in the nation’s capital.
Most of all, we thank the women who took part in the weekend’s Honor Flight for their service to our country. As the turnout over the weekend demonstrates, their example inspires so many people throughout our communities. We are proud to have been a part of the weekend’s festivities, and to help share their stories.