March marks Women's History Month, a 31-day observance of female contributions made throughout history and in contemporary society.

The month-long celebration can trace its own history back to the very first National Woman's Day, organized by the Socialist Party of America and held in New York City on Feb. 28, 1909 – a full nine years before American women achieved the right to vote.

On March 19, 1911, the first-ever International Women's Day was celebrated by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, many of whom held demonstrations demanding suffrage and an end to employment sex discrimination. In 1917, after women in Soviet Russia earned the right to vote, March 8 became a national holiday there. International Women's Day was primarily observed in socialist and communist countries, until being taken up by the feminist movement in the late 1960s, and in 1975 the United Nations began celebrating the day.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women's History Week, and in 1987 Congress designated the entirety of March as National Women's History Month.

Today Women's History Month provides an occasion to honor women who have broken glass ceilings and claimed major achievements in a variety of fields, including the United States military.

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.""The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."

A decorated history of women in the military

Today there are over 216,000 women serving in the United States Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, accounting for over 16 percent of the total number of officers and enlisted personnel.

Women also now comprise 10 percent of the total U.S. veteran population, and represent 20 percent of veterans under the age of 35, according to the Department of Labor.

The very first woman to serve in the American military was Deborah Sampson, who in 1782 enlisted in the Continental Army under a man's name to fight in the Revolutionary War. At one point, she removed a musket ball from her own thigh so that her true gender would not be revealed in surgery. Once her identity was discovered, Sampson was honorably discharged, and her husband received a military widow's pension in 1832, according to The New York Times.

Female enlistees disguised themselves as men during the Mexican-American War and Civil War as well, though most women served as nurses during this period of American history. Most notably, Dr. Mary Walker acted as a surgeon for Union troops, and was held by the Confederacy as a prisoner of war after she crossed enemy lines to treat wounded civilians. To this day, she is the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor.

In the early part of the 20th century, Congress created the Army Nurse Corps and the Navy Nurse Corps. Though they did not possess military rank, nor were they entitled to the same pay or Veterans' Benefits as men, over 21,000 of these nurses served military hospitals both at home and overseas during World War I.

In WWII, roughly 400,000 women served in noncombatant roles, including as nurses, mechanics, clerks, pilots and ambulance drivers. Hundreds more acted as field intelligence agents in the OSS, 88 were taken as POWs and 16 were killed in action, according to Task and Purpose.

In 1948, the Women's Armed Service Integration Act enabled women to become permanent members of the military, rather than only serve during wartime. There was a female presence in America's subsequent wars, with 50,000 women participating in Korea, many as nurses in M.A.S.H. units, and 11,000 deployed to Vietnam, where Commander Elizabeth Barrett became the first woman to hold a command in a combat zone.

Congress authorized women to fly in combat missions and serve on combat ships in 1991 and 1993, and the first female fighter pilots flew combat missions in Iraq in 1998, the same year that Captain Kathleen McGrath became the first woman to command a U.S. Navy warship.

The 21st century has been filled with even more landmarks, including Col. Linda McTague becoming the first woman to command a U.S. Air Force fighter squadron in 2004 and Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody becoming the first woman to achieve four-star officer rank in 2008.

In 2016, the Department of Defense opened all combat jobs to women, without exception, paving the way for even greater female military heroics now and in the future. The following year, the first woman graduated from the U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer course. Though the female lieutenant requested that her name not be released, the Marines did put out a video that showed her training for her milestone achievement.

This Women's History Month is a great time for all Americans to reflect upon the rich history of women in the military, while also thanking current female officers and enlistees for their service.