Museum changing the narrative on women in uniform, global conflicts

Latest numbers from the DoD reveal women make up 17% of the active-duty population, and 21% of the National Guard. The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas believes more education not only boosts recruitment prospects, but also changes national defense narratives.
The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas in Brevard showcases the contributions of female veterans throughout our history
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 7:14 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The latest numbers from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows in 20 years women will represent one in five veterans. And while their contributions date back to the American Revolution their roles haven’t always been as rightfully touted. And one museum in the Carolinas is working hard to change perceptions.

City of Brevard mayor Maureen Copelof has been in office for just over a year, and she’s committed to making her city a place where everyone thrives.

“We not only have to break the stereotypes that others think about us, but we have to break the stereotype that we think of ourselves,” Copelof said.

A quote she lived by for three decades in a different uniform.

“I’m a retired U.S. Navy captain who served for 30 years,” Copelof said.

She entered in 1979, both the draft and Vietnam War were over, and the military was dealing with a personnel shortage.

“They were not getting enough male volunteers, and so they opened career fields in the military to women that had never been opened before,” Copelof said.

With an MBA in hand, she entered as an IT communication officer and led fleets around the world.

“I ran shore and fleet communications,” she said.

And by the time she retired in 2009, she had broken many milestones.

“I ran Naval combinations for half the U.S. Navy, for half the world – from North Dakota to Bahrain (Persian Gulf),” Copelof said.

An exceptional career for the mayor and women in the military.

“Although we don’t have the outright hostility that I experienced back in 1979, and for the first decade of my career really, there still is an underlying almost subconscious stereotyping of women (in the military) that is still out there,” Copelof said.

And it’s an eye-opening narrative you’ll hear inside the walls of The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.

“It’s about time, let’s give them the recognition they deserve,” said Emmett Casciato, Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas founder and curator.

It’s personal for the museum’s curator, founder and father whose daughter graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and became a decorated combat aviation officer who served in Afghanistan.

“I’m talking about full out combat,” Casciato said.

Yet this father doesn’t believe her story, and others like it receive the attention and recognition they deserve.

“Women’s blood was shed as well in all the wars,” Casciato said. “You can go all the way back to the Revolutionary War, the Civil War to the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War – and the War on Terror. Women shed their blood for this country. They need to be recognized. Simple as that.”

In an effort to share these stories, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas has the Women’s Exhibit featuring women like mayor Copelof.

“I think it matters a lot,” she said.

The museum features thousands of military artifacts worn and used in combat, but amongst the uniforms, weapons and vehicles are faces, names and stories.

“I want the young girls to see that women did play a part in our freedom,” Casciato said. “It comes down to honor and educate.”

It’s education that’s being digested. Latest numbers from the Department of Defense reveals women today make up 17% of the active-duty population. The numbers are even higher amongst the state National Guard’s where the number stands at 21%. Emmett Casciato believes more education not only boosts recruitment prospects, but also changes national defense narratives.”

“It might not be for all, but it might be for some,” Casciato said.

“Women have got to continue to push, and they’ve got to have faith in themselves,” added Copelof.

To learn how you can contribute to The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas visit