As you park in the lot adjacent to the state capitol and then make your way to the building, you will pass an amazing memorial to those West Virginians who have served through the various wars. Standing apart and to the side of this memorial, lined with statues of the men – stands along a female warrior, holding the state flag.
The statue is 7-foot-6-inch and cast in bronze. It depicts a woman clad in fatigue pants, T-shirt, boots and field cap. With the base, she stands at the same height as the memorial’s four statues. Each of those depict a fighting man from a different branch of the military from the two world wars, Korea and Vietnam.
Charleston native and sculptor Joe Mullins created this statue as well as the Veterans Memorial and its statues. He was commissioned more than a decade ago to sculpt the monument to West Virginia women who have served in the military.
While creating the scale model in 2003, Mullens was challenged by complaints from older women veterans who felt the model was too masculine and should be wearing a skirt. A special committee of women veterans from different eras reviewed the project and approved Mullins’ design.
The monument also includes four bronze panels for the base depicting women from various war periods.
Between the 1999 commissioning and 2007, the latest year for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs figures, the number of West Virginia women who served nearly doubled to 11,259.
This month I have enjoyed researching strong female role models from around the globe but have really enjoyed those from West Virginia, in particular. One blog that made an impact on me was for Col Ruby Bradley. Bradley was a combat nurse in the Korean War, where she served on the front lines in evacuation hospitals. On one occasion, she refused to leave until she had loaded onto a plane all the sick and wounded while surrounded by Chinese snipers. She was the Eighth Army’s chief nurse from 1950 to 1953. Bradley became a colonel in 1958. She retired from the Army in 1963 but remained a nurse.
According to V.A. Department statistics, there are more than 10,000 female veterans living in West Virginia.