On Memorial Day Remember Women Who Made the Final Sacrifice

The practice of honoring those who have fallen in battle dates back to ancient Greeks and Romans. This Memorial Day enjoy your holiday, but also take a moment to remember women who made the final sacrifice as well as all the men who’ve died in military service for our country.

image of a pair of combat boots, a helmet, and dog tags on a metal foot locker--remember women who made the final sacrifice

Continuing with this blog’s tradition of reporting on women of history, I remember women who made the final sacrifice while serving in one of the United States military services. I include links where lists of names or histories of individuals are available.

The American Revolutionary War

During the American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775-September 3, 1783) women often accompanied their husbands. They foraged food, cooked meals, mended uniforms, and tended the sick. We know women served on the front lines, too. They swabbed cannons with water and carried water for the soldiers to drink. Women also acted as spies. Stories about Margaret Corbin, and Deborah Sampson are available on this blog.

Were some women who posed as men in the military killed during their service? Probably, but records are incomplete.

The American Civil War

According to battlefields.org, an accurate count of women who served in the Civil War (April 12, 1861-April 9, 1865) is impossible. The women who served often disguised themselves as men. Some of them died as men and their gender only revealed during burial. 

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman enlisted as Private Lyons Wakeman. She served nearly two years before she succumbed to an illness. She remains buried under her male nom de plume. Her true gender remained a secret until in 1976 when her letters home were discovered.

Spanish American War

Twenty-two service women died while in service during the Spanish American War (April 21, 1898-December 10, 1898). According to this list, most of them died from Typhoid Fever, one from Malaria, and one of an undiagnosed illness.

World War One 

Image of rows of wooden crosses with a red poppy in the center of each cross--remember women who made the final sacrifice in WWI

During WWI (July 28, 1914–November 11, 1918) women took on new roles in the workforce and in the armed services all over the world. Thousands of women served in American military services. The Army and Navy Nurse Corps included 22,804 American women. This blog posted stories about two veterans of the Great War, Loretta Perfectus Walsh and Opha May Johnson.

More than 200 Army nurses died in service. Thirty-six Navy nurses died. 

Names of a few of these women can be found on this site

On The Internet Archive you can access as complete a record of American soldiers (male and female) who died in Europe during WWI, Soldiers Of The Great War, Volume 1-3, by Doyle, A. C. (Alfred Cyril), 1893-; Haulsee, W. M. (William Mitchell), 1889-; Howe, F. G. (Frank George), 1890-; Soldiers Record Publishing Association. Volume 1 has links to the second and third volumes.

World War Two

A story about some amazing WWII nurses appeared on this blog.

When her plane went down on her 196th rescue mission, U.S. Army Nurse, Aleda E. Lutz of Freeland Michigan, became the first U.S. military woman to die in a combat zone during World War II.

Sadly, More than 400 military women lost their lives during World War II (Sept.1, 1931-Sept. 2, 1945). Some records say more than 500 died.

You can search casualty lists available on The National Archives’ Online Public Access catalog. Click on Military Personnel under the heading Genealogy / Personal History. 

Korean War

There were some 120,000 women in the United States who were on active duty during the Korean War (June 25, 1950 –July 27, 1953). Most of them were nurses. For more information visit koreanwar-educator.

Viet Nam War

Image of the Viet Nam Memorial Wall showing reflections in the wall of people viewing it.

There are eight women service members who died during the Viet Nam War (November 1, 1955 –April 30, 1975) whose names are on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall. Visit the virtual wall to see the list and biographical information.

The War On Terror

From 2001 to 2020, 173 female service members have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria according to congressional record. These women’s names can be searched for in The National Archives. Below are links to information about a few of those women.

Gulf War (January 17, 1991–February 28, 1991)

During the Gulf War, more commonly known as Desert Shield/Desert Storm, fifteen U.S. women died while serving our country.

Afghanistan War (October 7, 2001-Present)

1st Lt. Ashley White, 24, was killed in action in Afghanistan on Oct. 22, 2011. She was part of a Cultural Support Team (CST), a team to help make connections with local Afghan citizens.

IRAQ WAR (Mar. 20, 2003-Dec. 15, 2011)

U.S. Army Specialist Lori Piestewa, 23, was killed in action in Iraq on March 23, 2003. She was the first Native American woman in history to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military. 

Army Corporal Jessica Ellis, 24, was killed in action in Iraq on May 11, 2008. She was serving her second tour as a medic in Iraq.

Thank You

Two small words that hold a full heart of gratitude and respect while we take a moment to remember women who made the final sacrifice to their country. If you know of a woman who died while serving in one of the United States military services, please add her name in the comments below so readers may include her in their remembrances. And if you are not from the U.S., take a moment of your day to remember the women who’ve served and died for your country.

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