Honor women who served

Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 3:01 AM
By Andy Dinniman, Wally Nunn, and Melissa Farkouh

There has been much debate about women in combat lately, but we are compelled to point out that U.S. military women in combat are nothing new.

Throughout our history, women from all walks of life, including many from our region, have answered the call of duty in every hour of our nation's need. In our most recent conflicts, in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 150 women have given their lives and more than 800 have been wounded.

Dr. Mary Walker paved the way. An advocate for women's rights and a medical school graduate, Walker attempted to join the Union Army as a medical officer at the onset of the Civil War, but was denied a commission. The Army did not permit female officers. Undaunted, she volunteered, and served as a nurse near the front lines at Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chickamauga. She received only a tent and food for her service.

In 1863, Walker was officially appointed the first female surgeon in the U.S. Army. Still, she did much more than tend to sick and injured troops. As Walker frequently crossed battle lines to tend to civilians caught in the cross fire, she was also a spy. She was arrested in 1864 by Confederate troops and imprisoned in Richmond for four months until she was released in a prisoner exchange.

On Nov. 11, 1865, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill to present Walker the Medal of Honor. Yet even that recognition did not go unchallenged. In 1917, Congress revised eligibility standards for the medal and rescinded 911 names, including Walker's, from the Medal of Honor roll. But Walker refused to return the medal, and wore it until her death in 1919. It wasn't until 1977 that her medal was restored by President Jimmy Carter, and she remains the only woman to receive the nation's highest military honor.

But, of course, she wasn't the only woman who served. About the same time Walker was an Army volunteer, Rebecca Lane Pennypacker Price was organizing the Union Relief Society of Phoenixville. She assembled 100 local women to sew shirts, knit uniforms, and gather nonperishable food items for the troops. Price secured a pass from Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin to distribute the relief shipment to the field hospital for the Army of the Potomac in Wind Mill Point, Va. Once there, Price cooked meals and assisted with the sick and wounded. 

Though she had intended to stay only a week or two, Price was soon working as a nurse in Union hospitals in Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore. In 1863, she took a cattle car to Gettysburg in order to get to the battle as soon as possible and assist with the thousands of wounded. There Price took charge of a barn filled with the worst trauma cases and exposed a chaplain who had been hoarding supplies from the sick and wounded.

Walker and Price established a rich tradition of persistence, patriotism, and empowerment for women in the military - a tradition that continued when the late Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown, of Malvern, broke through the "brass ceiling" in 1977, becoming the first African American woman to achieve the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Army. She had joined the Army in 1955, after President Harry Truman desegregated the armed services, and rose swiftly through the ranks, holding positions throughout the nation, in Japan, and in South Korea during a career that spanned three decades. As chief of the Army Nurse Corps, she commanded 7,000 male and female nurses in the Army National Guard and Army Reserves until her retirement in 1983.

In honor of all of these women, and all who have served our nation and the cause of freedom, the Medal of Honor Grove will celebrate the installation of Dr. Mary E. Walker at a special ceremony Thursday afternoon.

The grove, located at the Freedoms Foundation just off Route 23 near Phoenixville, is the nation's oldest memorial site dedicated to Medal of Honor recipients. The 52-acre grove is divided into one-acre plots, one for each state, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Each plot features an obelisk and metal plaques set in the ground, honoring medal recipients dating back to the Civil War. It is a unique place where nature and history come together in a moving tribute to our nation's greatest heroes.

Among those who will pay tribute to Walker is Master Sgt. Juanita Milligan, a U.S. Army veteran who knows all too well the realities of women serving on the front lines. In August 2005, Milligan was deployed in Iraq when her humvee was struck by a improvised explosive device. The single mother of three sustained multiple life-threatening injuries and underwent dozens of surgeries. She knows all too well the value of those military surgeons who have followed in Walker's footsteps.

Andy Dinniman is a Democratic state senator representing parts of Chester and Montgomery Counties. Wally Nunn is chairman of the board of the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove. Melissa Farkouh is a member of the board. For more information on the Medal of Honor Grove and the Mary Walker event, visit

Dr. Mary Walker's Plaque installed by visiting COL Connie C. Christensen, AN USAR (ret.).
COL Christensen served as a nurse in Vietnam

The Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove Thank PECO for their sponsorship of this special event.

Dr. Mary E. Walker

Visit the daily - dawn till dusk. 
Medal of Honor Grove
Located at the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge
1601 Valley Forge Rd
Phoenixville, Pa


Kentucky Obelisk


Thank you for your overwhelming response to the Dr. Mary E. Walker event to be held this Thursday, March 14, 2013 at the Freedoms Foundation Galleria. The luncheon has been SOLD OUT which honors Dr. Walker, recipients and all who have worn and continue to wear the uniform.

Reminder, the Medal of Honor Grove is open daily from dawn till dusk for your walking pleasure. The roadway is approximately 4 miles long. The Grove is a very peaceful and spiritual place and it's free and open to the public.
Dr. Mary E. Walker is now represented on the Kentucky obelisk as she entered the service in that state. She is also represented on the  New York obelisk, the state in which she was born.
Today her name is enshrined in both. Her ground plaque will be unveiled at the luncheon for placement at another time.

New York Obelisk

Friends Chairman Wally Nunn and Board member Missy Livingston Farkouh present MSGT Juanita Milligan with the Friends of the Grove's first Spirit of Dr. Mary E. Walker Award


The Mary Walker event on March 14, 2013 was very

successful. The Friends of the Grove thank all who

attended. We particularly thank special guest speaker

MSGT Juanita Milligan, PECO and the committee that

worked so hard to make it a special day for Dr. Mary

Walker and all the women in the military.

View the video that aired on our local CBS station

about the event video

To view photos of the luncheon click here
Photos by Darryl W. Moran


Daily Local News
Retired veteran receives first area leadership award

CALN – The Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove Thursday chose a Wichita, Kansas resident to be the first recipient of its Spirit of Dr. Mary E. Walker Award. 

Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Juanita Milligan received the recognition for her actions in 2005, when she was injured during her second deployment to Iraq. She rode in an armored Humvee that was struck by a roadside improvised 
explosive device, or IED.
Read full article here 

Thursday, March 14, 2013
Mary Walker House
Coatesville VA

Recognizing Women in the Military with Senator Andy Dinniman and the Mary Walker House.
MSGT Juanita Milligan was honored by State Senator Andy Dinniman, 
Coatesville AFJROTC PA 771, the Mary Walker House  and Friends of the Grove.

MSGT Milligan addresses the women veterans at the Mary Walker House

Dr. Mary E. Walker Event