-- Rosa Moore struggled to put into words the importance of her visit to Washington, D.C. She had served as an Army supply clerk during World War II, and now she was celebrating that service in her nation’s capital.
Rosa was part of a historic trip to Washington, D.C., for 140 female veterans. The women, ranging in age from 28 to 96, composed the first all-female Honor Flight.
“I'm just so excited I can't talk. It was more than I expected, and I thoroughly enjoyed being here,” Rosa told ABC News.
The Honor Flight Network and its regional hubs help veterans visit their respective war memorials in Washington, D.C., at no cost to them. Until now, no local Honor Flight had ever included more than five female veterans.
The Honor Flight trip included 70 women who served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars both overseas and stateside. They were medics, combat nurses and interpreters, among many other roles.
The senior women were accompanied by 70 “guardian” veterans who are more recent service members. The whole group was honored with a special tour of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, where they met with Secretary for Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald.
“Events like today are the reason we come to work. It's the reason we do what we do for veterans,” McDonald told ABC News. “To get to talk to a veteran who was responsible or at least helped with breaking the Nazi code during World War II? Who knows? We could all be speaking German if she hadn't done that job. So I mean this is what we live for.”
McDonald said he hoped this all-female Honor Flight would be the first of many.
The historic trip took place as the military debates the role of women in combat positions.
The results of a Marine Corps study released earlier this month found male units significantly out-performed gender-integrated ones. That study led the Marines to recommend last week that some combat jobs remain off limits to women, a position at odds with the other military services that are expected to recommend opening all combat positions to women.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter will have until the end of the year to decide whether women should continue to be barred from some combat units.