First lady Michelle Obama, on March 2, recognized female veterans during a reception in Washington, D.C., reported ABC News. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi organized the event to celebrate Women's History Month.
At the reception, Obama encouraged women ex-servicemembers to share their stories.
Retired Air Force Brigadier Gen. Wilma Vaught joined the military in 1957, almost 10 years after Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, which allowed women to enlist in the armed forces. Vaught left the Air Force in 1985 and went on to serve as president for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, reported RealClear Politics. The nonprofit lobbied the federal government to construct a monument to female veterans. Workers broke ground on the project in 1995 and completed it two years later. Vaught retired from the organization Jan. 1, 2016.
The first lady honored Vaught by presenting her with the American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol on that day.
"Thanks to brilliant, fearless women like Gen. Vaught, today more than 200,000 women are serving our country in just about every role and rank," Obama said. "They are flying fighter jets, training new recruits, they're graduating Army Ranger School – and I met those graduates. They are awesome – fierce. And as you've already heard, they will soon be welcome in every combat unit in our armed forces."
Former U.S. Army Reserve photographer Kate Hoit served for eight years and did multiple tours in Iraq. Upon returning home, Hoit and a fellow male veteran went to register at their local Veterans of Foreign Wars office. Staff at the VFW branch mistook her for a military spouse.
"I was pulled aside and asked if I needed the military spouse application," she told ABC News. "I asked why, and they said, 'You know, you're a younger woman.'"
Hoit now works for Group 6, an advocacy group committed to changing perceptions about female veterans.
Obama addressed the problems young women like Hoit still face when they return home from service. She renewed the Obama administration's commitment to support female veterans by shining light on women servicemembers and continuing to expand military benefits for women. Under President Barack Obama, over 2,400 healthcare providers have established specialized services for female veterans.
"When these women have sacrificed so much and served so bravely, they should never have to hide their accomplishments," the first lady said. "They should never have to worry about whether their service will be valued equally. And just like every veteran who has served this country, they should be getting every single one of the benefits they've earned."