Ruth Fairchild, a veteran of the Gulf War and the former State Junior Vice Commander of the Pennsylvania Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars, on Feb. 28, will speak at the 70th anniversary celebration for the VFW Post in Titusville, Pennsylvania, reported The Titusville Herald. Fairchild was the first female, statewide VFW commander and led all of the organization's Pennsylvania-based initiatives from 2012 to 2013.  

She served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1994 and did multiple tours of duty in Asia and the Middle East, including Operation Desert Storm. Fairchild is the recipient of the Southwest Asia Service Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal and other commendations. She was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, over 40,000 female servicemembers served in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. During these conflicts, women filled a variety of frontline positions. They worked in mobile medical units and weapons-assembly groups and performed other support duties. Soon after American troops withdrew from the Persian Gulf, the Secretary of Defense permitted female servicemembers to fly combat aircraft.

In the years since Operation Desert Storm, which concluded in 1991, female ex-servicemembers have become fixtures in the VFW community, reported The Associated Press. A group of female veterans, in 2011, formed the first women's VFW post in Buffalo, New York. And, in 2014, Congress altered the organization's charter to recognize female veterans. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are almost 2 million women ex-servicemembers in the U.S.

"We didn't change our congressional charter to be politically correct," VFW National Commander John Stroud said in a statement. "We changed it because being an eligible servicemember or veteran is what's important to our great organization."

Since leaving the VFW in 2013, Fairchild has continued to advocate for female veterans, reported New Caste News.