While World War I saw three women receive the Distinguished Service Cross and three more receive the forerunner to the Silver Star, it isn’t the only conflict since 1900 where American servicewomen have been decorated for valor.
Six women earned the Silver Star for valor for actions since “The War to End All Wars.”
1-4. Ellen Ainsworth, Mary Roberts, Elaine Roe, and Rita Rourke
These four women received the Silver Star for their actions on Feb. 10, 1944, during the Anzio campaign. A battle many see as a monumental mess for the allies.
According to an official U.S. Army history of the campaign, the initial attacks on Jan. 22, 1944, went very well. The problem was that the Nazi resistance soon tightened up, and the next thing the Americans knew, they were in one hell of a fight.
What had been a promising beachhead instead became known as “Hell’s Half-Acre.” Troops were crammed in as the Germans carried out a counter attack that started on Feb. 3, 1944. According to an official U.S. Army history of the Nurse Corps in World War II, a week later, the 33rd Field Hospital was hit by a Nazi artillery barrage. Two off-duty nurses were killed by one shell. Another hit a generator for a tent used as an operating room, starting a fire that threatened 42 patients.
While 1st Lt. Mary Roberts kept the operating rooms going, 2nd Lt.s Elaine Roe and Rita Rourke used flashlights to evacuate patients that could be moved. CBSNews.com reported that 2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth also assisted in that evacuation, but caught a shell fragment and died six days later.
All four women received the Silver Star – in Ainsworth’s case, the award was posthumous.
5. Leigh Ann Hester
Of all the women to be decorated for valor since 1900, Leigh Ann Hester is arguably the best known. She is also the only one not to have ties to the Army medicine.
According to an AAR posted at BlackFive.net, Hester was a military policeman assigned as part of a squad designated “Raven 42.”
When insurgents ambushed a convoy on March 20, 2005, in Iraq, Hester — a team leader — was among those who leapt into action. Upon their arrival, one of the vehicles was hit by a RPG, and some of the soldiers moved to treat the wounded.
Hester would join then-Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein in clearing a ditch, using M4 carbines and grenades. Hester would later be credited with killing at least four of the 26 insurgents that were dropped on the spot, while Raven 42 also was credited with capturing five others.
The captured insurgents, according to an American Rifleman article, had been on a mission to take American prisoners. That did not happen, thanks to Hester and her fellow soldiers.
On June 16, 2005, Hester received the Silver Star for her actions that day, not to mention a lot of fame.
6. Monica Lin Brown
Monica Lin Brown may be the youngest woman to be decorated for valor to date. On April 25, 2007, she was with a convoy in Paktika Province Afghanistan when it came under mortar fire after one of the vehicles triggered an improvised explosive device. According to the medal citation, Brown, who was an 18-year-old private first class at the time, ignored enemy fire and ran to treat the casualties.
Several times, she shielded the casualties with her own body, treating their wounds less than 50 feet from a burning vehicle loaded with ammunition. As rounds began to cook off, her platoon sergeant arrived and used a vehicle to move her and the casualties to a safer location. Brown continued to treat the wounded until they were evacuated.
On March 21, 2008, she was presented the Silver Star by then-Vice President Dick Cheney.