History was made at Arlington – and UConn’s expert was recruited to help with national news coverageOctober 6, 20212 min read
For the first time in the 84 years that soldiers have stood watch over the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, the duty was carried out by three women.
UConn's Micki McElya, a professor in the Department of History and the author of The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery, offered her perspective and insight into the significance of the moment:
The images of the three female soldiers were a “visual marker” of the often unrecognized sacrifices that women and other marginalized people in the United States have made for the military, Professor McElya said.
“Women have served either officially or unofficially in every single war this country has ever waged, but they have never been drafted,” she said. “So if we want to talk about sacrifice and honor, women have done that because they wanted to.”
The changing of the guard was also an important moment in military history, one that showed that women are serving in “the most revered positions,” said Kara Dixon Vuic, a professor of war, conflict and society in 20th-century America at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
“These are the rituals that the nation holds dear,” she said. “Some might call it militaristic and some might say it represents the best of us. But to have women at the heart of it, whatever your perspective is, is important because it shows that women are at the heart of these debates now.”
If you are a journalist covering the historic aspects of this occasion or other events taking place, then let our experts help with your stories. Professor McElya is an expert in the histories of women, gender, sexuality, and race in the U.S., with a focus on politics and memory. She’s available to speak with media regarding these topics – simply click on her icon now to arrange an interview today.
Micki McElya, Ph.D. Professor of History
Professor McElya is an expert in the histories of women, gender, sexuality, and race in the U.S., with a focus on politics and memory.