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For the first time in Oregon history, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has designated a statewide observance recognizing women veterans. Women Veterans Day will take place on June 12.

That date also marks the 71st anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which acknowledged the great contributions made by women in the military and finally enabled them to serve as regular members of the United States Armed Forces and Reserves.

“As a proud veteran of the U.S. Army, this historic proclamation is something that is obviously very personal for me,” said Kelly Fitzpatrick, director of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “I am proud that here at ODVA, women veterans are represented at every level of our agency, including the very top.

“We are proud of all women veterans in the state of Oregon. You are a vital part of the Oregon veteran community, and we will continue to work to anticipate your needs and help you thrive in our state. Thank you for your service to our country.”

Women have served in our nation’s wars and conflicts since the American Revolution, traditionally serving as nurses, cooks, spies and in administrative support roles. During World War I, women were allowed to enlist as yeomen in the Navy and reservists in the Marine Corps, filling in for men who were deployed to the battlefields of Europe.

Special units were formed in World War II, such as the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), Women’s Army Corps (WACs), Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARs), Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), and the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve (WRs), allowing women to begin serving in positions previously reserved for men.

Today, women comprise more than 16 percent of the country’s military forces, with more than 25,000 women veterans currently living in Oregon. They are also the fastest growing segment of the veteran population.

Oregon joins three other states — California, New York and Texas — that have officially designated June 12 as Women Veterans Day.

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