A group of U.S. veterans are joining forces with lawmakers to change the motto of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which adorns many VA hospitals.
The motto, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” originates from President Lincoln’s second inaugural address, which he delivered on a muddy Pennsylvania Avenue in the last months of the Civil War.
According to the Military Times, officials from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have been working with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Kathleen Rice, and Rep. Brian Mast to change the motto to one that acknowledges the service and sacrifice of female veterans as well. IAVA, which has 400,000 members, tried to change the motto last year, with the VA deciding to keep it as it was.
Last month, the lawmakers submitted a bill to change the motto’s current language, saying it “fails to recognize the service and sacrifice of the thousands of women in uniform.” The bill proposes a new VA motto that would read: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”
There are more than 20 million veterans of U.S. armed forces, with about 10% of them female. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, 16% of enlisted U.S. military forces are women, up from 2% in 1973.
Last Friday, Gillibrand and four other lawmakers also introduced legislation to rename Manhattan’s VA Medical Center after Margaret Corbin, the first woman to receive official recognition from the U.S. for her military service.