25 female military veterans you should champion on Veterans Day

From the women who dressed as men so they could secretly serve in combat units during the Civil War, to the awesome WACS (Women’s Army Corps) and WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) of World War II, to today’s female servicemembers, women have served in the U.S. military in almost every war. The military has also changed over the years to allow female servicemembers more options and different roles. According to the most recent Department of Defense statistics, there are 2,051,484 female veterans of the U.S. military. You may know one, or you may be one. If so, we hope you know that we appreciate your service and support you now that you’re out in the civilian world.

This Veterans Day, we’ve assembled a list of just a few of the female veterans who have gone on to do great things after their time in the military.

1Rep. Martha McSally (U.S. Air Force)

Before she became a politician, Rep. McSally (R.-Arizona) served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, where she was the first female fighter pilot to serve in combat and command a fighter squadron in combat. She has been in the news lately because some think she will run for Sen. Jeff Flake’s position when he retires next year. Flake was outspoken about his disapproval of President Trump, and Rep. McSally has been the same, refusing to endorse him in 2016 and saying she had concerns about how “he’s spoken about veterans and Hispanics and women and others.”

2Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa National Guard)

Sen. Ernst (R.-Iowa) is the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. She spent over 23 years in the Iowa National Guard. She served as a company commander, leading 150 Iowa Guardsmen during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

3Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii National Guard


Rep. Gabbard (D.-Hawaii) was the youngest person to be elected to the Hawaii State Legislature when she was first elected in 2002 at the age of 21 — and two years later, she became the first state official to voluntarily leave public office to serve in a war. She served two tours of duty in the Middle East as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard. Gabbard is one of the two first female combat veterans to serve in the U.S. Congress and also its first Hindu member.

4Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Illinois National Guard/U.S. Army Reserves)

Sen. Duckworth (D.-Illinois) served 23 years in the U.S. Army Reserves. In 2004, while she was serving as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot in Iraq, her helicopter was shot down. She lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm. After her recovery, she ran for office, won, and was eventually appointed assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs by President Obama. She continues to fly as a civilian pilot and has completed several marathons. And a doctorate. And while there are no sources to confirm this, it’s possible that she is secretly a superhero. I’m just saying.

5Skye P. Marshall (U.S. Air Force)

Marshall has appeared in several shows, most recently including Grey’s Anatomy and Shameless. She also plays Sgt. Shonda Peterson in the upcoming movie IndivisiblePrior to becoming an actress, Marshall served in the U.S. Air Force.

6Zulay Henao (U.S. Army)

Henao has appeared on shows such as Army Wives and Tyler Perry’s If Loving You Is Wrong, and the movie Meet the Blacks. The actress, who was born in Medellin, Columbia, served three years in the U.S. Army.

7Megan Leavey (U.S. Marine Corps)

The movie Megan Leavey is based on the true story of an Marine who fought to adopt Sgt. Rex, the bomb-sniffing dog with whom she had served in Iraq. The movie premiered at Yankee Stadium in June, where the real Megan Leavey and Sgt. Rex were honored at a game in 2012. She later worked at the stadium with another bomb-sniffing dog named Patriot, after the death of Sgt. Rex. Leavey continues to work for the New York Yankees today, and said in an interview earlier this year, “…now I work for the Yankees; what more could I ask?…I consider myself essentially part of the Yankees family since 2012.”

8Wendy B. Lawrence (U.S. Navy)

Today, Capt. Lawrence works in space education at Kennedy Space Center — and she should know what the next generation of astronauts needs to learn. She has been on four shuttle missions and spent over fifty days in space. Before that, she served in the U.S. Navy as one of the first female helicopter pilots to make a long helicopter flight over the Indian Ocean.

9Eileen Collins (U.S. Air Force)

NASA’s first female shuttle commander began her career as a pilot in the Air Force, where she earned several honors, including the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury, 1983).

10Kathryn P. Hire (U.S. Navy/Navy Reserves)

Before Capt. Hire became an astronaut and started operating robotic arms in space and doing research while orbiting the earth in the SpaceLab, she served as a pilot in the Navy. She was the first female in the U.S. military to be assigned to a combat aircrew. After some time in the Reserves, she was called back to active duty to serve as part of U.S. Naval Central Command at the start of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

11Sunita Williams (U.S. Navy)

Want to go to space on a commercial flight? When the time comes, remember that Capt. Williams helped you get there. She is currently training as a test pilot for commercial spacecraft that are still being developed (a brave job to which most of us would give a giant “nope”). Before that, she went on two space missions as an astronaut, after serving in the Navy as a diving officer and then helicopter pilot. In short, she’s an action figure.

12Shauna Rohbock (Utah National Guard)

In addition to winning a silver medal in bobsled at the 2006 Olympics, among other world competitions, Rohbock served in the Utah National Guard. She is also a former professional soccer player for the San Diego Spirit and today coaches bobsled.

13Shawn Morelli (U.S. Army)

Morelli won two gold medals in cycling at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. Prior to her athletic career, she served as an engineer in the Army. She was injured while serving in Afghanistan in 2007.

14Samantha Tucker (U.S. Air Force)

A year after she first picked up a bow, Tucker was winning competitions, and the next year she earned a spot — and then a bronze medal — on the 2016 U.S. Paralympics Archery team. So if you’re considering trying something new, remember that. She served in the Air Force until she lost her lower left arm in a motorcycle accident. “Something about dying on the side of the road helps you narrow down what’s really important,” Tucker said in an interview prior to the Paralympics. “I didn’t choose to lose my arm, but it happened, and it’s how I respond. It was a valuable lesson I learned that day in the ditch.”

15Patricia Collins (U.S. Army)

Last year, Collins recorded a top-ten finish at the Paralympic Games in Rio. This year, this triathlete earned a bronze medal at the World Paratriathlon Series in Yokohama, Japan, among other medals at events across the world. Before — and during — her athletic career, Collins served in the Army, spending time at the Pentagon and Fort Bragg, home of the Airborne. Speaking of which, she has made over 100 parachute jumps from an airplane, including two after she lost her leg when she was hit by a car while cycling in 2006. Can’t stop, won’t stop? Yes.

16Angela Madsen (U.S. Marine Corps)

Madsen is the only person, male or female, to have completed four ocean rowing crossings of three oceans, and she also rowed a circumnavigation of Great Britain. She is the only paraplegic person to surf in the women’s longboard surf championships in Biarritz, France. And besides all that, this three-time Paralympian also competes in track and field, winning a bronze in shot put in the 2012 Paralympics. Before all that, she served in the Marine Corps. In 2013, she wrote a book, Rowing Against the Wind, which we should all read because she just might be The Most Interesting Woman In the World.

17Elizabeth Marks (U.S. Army)

Marks graduated from a military high school at 16 and joined the U.S. Army as a combat medic at 17. In 2010, she suffered serious injuries to both hips while serving in Iraq. She began swimming as part of rehabilitation, and she was so good at it that she eventually joined the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, which meant she swam for the Army. Traveling to the Invictus Games in England in 2014, she suffered another health setback that almost cost her her life, but she came back from it to win a gold and bronze in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. That same year, she was the subject of a viral video when she won her fourth gold in the Invictus games and returned her medal to Prince Harry to be given to the doctors who saved her life in 2014.

18Jennifer Schuble (U.S. Army)

While training at the United States Military Academy at West Point (where she was a three-sport athlete), Schuble suffered a traumatic brain injury, which was worsened by a car accident a few years later. Then, in 2014, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. So what did she do? Became a cyclist and won five medals over the course of three Paralympic Games. She won a gold, silver, and bronze in this year’s World Championships too. I mean, why not?

19Jessica Jones Meyers (U.S. Army)


This West Point graduate served as an intelligence officer in Iraq prior to joining the Army’s World Class Athlete program. After her time in the Army, she became a professional triathlete, and she has completed and won several Ironman and other competitions. She served as a triathalon guide in the 2016 Paralympics. (Guides assist visually impaired athletes.) She is also the mother of twins, whose hilarious and wise sayings can often be found on her Twitter feed at @jessjonestri.

20Julie Golob (U.S. Army)

Golob is one of the most decorated professional shooters in the world. She is the current International Practical Shooting Confederation world champion — and that’s just one of more than 120 championship titles she holds in state, regional, and international competitions. Before becoming a professional shooter, she served with the prestigious U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. Despite all that, Glob said in a 2016 interview that she still gets mansplained: “It doesn’t usually happen at a range, where I walk up with 20 different logos on my shirt. But if I walk into a gun shop, or if I’m in a casual setting with my husband, and there’s a bunch of guys and they don’t know what I do, it’s always an eye-opening experience when they discover that I understand what I’m talking about.”

21Lia Coryell (U.S. Army)

Coryell has called herself “the world’s oldest {rivate” because she was injured, and had to medically retire, just six months into her service as a truck driver in the U.S. Army. During treatment for her injury, it was discovered that she had multiple sclerosis. After her diagnosis, she became a recreational therapist and then began a graduate degree in education and library science. She was asked to lead a student veterans group at the college, and she credits those students with encouraging her to try archery. With her friend (#14 on this list) Samantha Tucker, she dropped out of grad school (!) and pursued her goal of competing in the 2016 Paralympics — which she did, as the first woman to compete in the W1 (archers with disabilities that affect their upper and lower bodies) category. She continues to promote adaptive sports and work on behalf of injured veterans transitioning to college.

22Melissa Stockwell (U.S. Army)

Stockwell was a gymnast with Olympic dreams when she was young. Instead, she became a soldier — and in 2004, while deployed to Iraq, she survived a roadside bomb that resulted in the loss of her leg. After her initial recovery, she tried a variety of sports through the Wounded Warrior Project, including skiing, handcycling, and swimming. Eventually, she went on to compete for the United States on the 2008 Paralympics swim team. But why just swim? In 2016, Stockwell again competed in the Paralympics, this time as a triathlete — and won bronze. She is a co-founder of Dare2Tri, an organization that encourages athletes with disabilities “to develop skills in triathalon.”

23Shaye Molendyke (U.S. Air Force/Air Force Reserves)

Lt. Col. Molendyke served 23 years in the Air Force before becoming co-creator of the YogaFit for Warriors program, a yoga program specifically designed to help people recovering from trauma. She was on active duty when 9/11 happened, and she worked as a logistics planner, supporting planning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the yoga program can help people who have experienced any type of trauma, it was initially designed to address the needs of the military. Asked about her goal for the yoga program, Molendyke said in an interview on her online bio, “To really help those who are suffering in my military family. Not just the military members but also their spouses and children. The ripple effects through history will be enormous if we don’t.”

24Jennifer Marshall (U.S. Navy)

Those of you watching the second season of Stranger Things might have noticed Marshall in the role of Susan Hargrove. The actress also co-hosts the podcast Military Veterans in Creative Careers, where she chats with other military veterans working in the arts and entertainment industry. She herself served four years in the U.S. Navy, deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

25Yvonne Valadez (U.S. Army)

Valadez has appeared in The Night Shift and Grey’s Anatomy. Before she became an actress, she served four years as an air defense operator in the Army.

To all the veterans out there: Thank you. We appreciate your service.