Women have been able defenders of our people and region for centuries. Since New Mexico gained statehood in 1912, more than 15,000 New Mexico women have served in the military. Their contributions are a tribute to the strength of New Mexico women and pride and honor for all New Mexicans.
Since New Mexico became a state part of the United States in 1912, more than 15,000 women in New Mexico have volunteered to serve in the military. Tamara Archuleta, Christel Chávez, and Lori Piestewa are the only known women of the New Mexico region who have lost their lives while in the United States military service. They are not, however, the first women to take up arms and defend their homes and society in our region. New Mexico is a state of culturally diverse people who have protected themselves over many centuries.
Using the example of women who defended the walls of Oñate’s small settlement at the end of the sixteenth century, women have taken up arms for more than four centuries defending the land now known as New Mexico.
Through most of its history, life in the New Mexico region 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 harm’s way. While no recorded history confirms their role, women were very likely pressed into service as defenders of themselves and other innocents.
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. Women’s service in the military has not been mandatory.
Today, New Mexican women attend military academies, participate in on-campus military programs in educational institutions, and serve in the armed forces all over the world.
The New Mexico Department of Veterans Services and the Women Veterans of New Mexico keep extensive records on the history of women veterans of New Mexico. Women have been able defenders of our people and region for centuries. Their considerable contributions are a tribute to the strength of New Mexico women, and a pride and honor to 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.)