Tamara Archuleta, Christel Chávez, and Lori Piestewa are the only known women of the region who lost their lives while in the United States military service. They are not, though, the first women of the region to take up arms and defend their homes and society. New Mexico is a state of culturally diverse people who have protected themselves over four centuries and more. Since New Mexico has become a part of the United States, over 15,000 women in New Mexico volunteered to serve in the military.
Using the example of women who manned the walls in defense of Oñate’s small settlement at the end of the sixteenth century, women in New Mexico have taken up arms for over four centuries in New Mexico.
Through most of its history, life in New Mexico has been harsh and dangerous. Women had to maintain a strictly scheduled subsistence lifestyle for themselves and their families. Even as the Pueblo Indians encountered the first Spanish forays into their lands, women, children, and the infirm were sequestered out of harms way. While the record is silent on this matter, the role of women as defenders of themselves and the other innocents is a fairly obvious assumption.
Women’s service in the military has not been mandatory. For most of New Mexico’s history, fighting was a matter of survival. During World War II women had the option to volunteer and many did.
Today, New Mexican women attend the military academies, on campus military programs, and serve in the armed forces all over the world.
The New Mexico Department of Veterans Services and the Women Veterans of New Mexico are the keepers of the information and history of women veterans of New Mexico. Women have served for time immemorial and their considerable contributions are a tribute to the pride and honor of all New Mexicans.
New Mexico Department of Veterans Services; http://www1.va.gov/vetdata/page.cfm?pg=15 . (This breaks out veterans data state by state.)