We are the All Armed Forces Women’s Soccer Team, a group of 18 women representing four branches of the US Armed Services (Army, Navy, Marines & Air Force)
Every soccer player knows the meaning of the word sacrifice. It starts with time – missing a few birthday parties here and there, then entire weekends, eventually getting in the way of milestones like homecoming and prom (or just going straight from a game with your cleats on). Then there’s the discipline – waking up early to work out on the one or two few days a week you could sleep in. Getting your homework done even though you’re exhausted from a full week of practice, games, school, friends, and everything else. Then there’s the grit – the determined, fight through the pain, work harder, put the team on your back, never give up part that made it all possible. For some of us, these lessons we learned and values we embodied transformed sacrifice into another calling – military service. We’re the members of the Armed Forces Women’s Soccer Team, a group of women from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard who come together from all over the world to represent the USA in international military soccer tournaments.
But that only happens once or twice a year. Most of the time we are serving the nation as nurses, pilots, intelligence analysts, engineers, mechanics, anything you can imagine. And the sacrifices we learned to make early in our lives only grew. Instead of missing weekends, we miss 6 months to a year with loved ones while on deployments. Where we used to battle through August pre-season, we now face basic training, combat training, and survival training. As we honor Veterans Day, we remember that we have the privilege to choose this path because of those who came before us. We know the women who paved the way for women’s soccer, like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, and Julie Foudy. But many do not know the women who paved the way for women in the military. Here are just a few:
Harriet Tubman is best known for her work guiding slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Few know that she was also the first female in American history to plan and lead a full-blown military expedition.
Elsie Ott (US Army) having never flown on a plane before, and armed with only a first aid kit, she kept five soldiers alive in the first ever intercontinental aeromedical evacuation in 1943.
Grace Murray Hopper (US Navy) created and developed the first English based computer programming language which became the most prominent to date.
Eileen Collins (US Air Force) was the first woman to pilot a space shuttle in 1995. She then went on to become the first female to command a space mission in 1999.
Kristen Griest and Shay Haver (US Army) were the first women to graduate from Army Ranger School in 2015.
As we continue to make forward strides, Veterans Day is a time to remember those who came before us. Those who shattered ceilings and broke barriers. Those dedicated to the betterment of something greater than themselves. We thank them for their service, and the sacrifices they made to give us a better future.
Our jobs run the gamut from engineer to nurse to helicopter pilot, and our ages range from 23 to 35. It is our privilege and honor to serve and represent our nation on and off the pitch. This opportunity, provided to us by the International Council of Military Sports (CISM), is an incredible forum to foster international friendship through the sport we all love."
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Contributor: Ariel Saltin, member of the AAF Women's Soccer Team