(November 7, 2017) An association of post-9/11 veterans is asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to change a “sexist” and “outdated” motto to acknowledge the contributions of women who serve in uniform. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America wants the change made before Veterans Day, which is Saturday.
The group objects to the motto that was established in 1959 and is printed on a plaque outside the VA headquarters in Washington, D.C. The motto is “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” It is attributed to President Abraham Lincoln on the plaque.
IAVA has launched a campaign called “She Who Borne the Battle” and has been pushing for a change since March. In a letter last week to VA Secretary David Shulkin, IAVA’s executive director, Allison Jaslow, wrote, “Every day that the VA preserves this motto, it ignores and obscures the needs of far too many women veterans. . . . By excluding women, it diminishes the contributions by women in the military, and too often communicates to women veterans that they are unwelcome outsiders.”
IAVA cites a survey that found only 22 percent of its female members believe the VA does a good job of supporting women veterans. Seventy percent found the VA lacking in its treatment of them.
“Major policy changes won’t happen overnight, but culture and policy go hand in hand and bring the VA’s culture into the 21st century can be jumpstarted by action at the top,” Jaslow wrote.
She noted that the services have made changes to reflect the increased presence of women in the military. The Air Force Academy, for example, removed a sign that read “Bring Me Men,” replacing it with a gender-neutral motto. The U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy changed the lyrics of some of their traditional songs to remove references to men.