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  • Laureta Huit

Woman Warrior, by sculptors Matthew Quintana and Brett Chomer


This Month we recognize Women’s Military History, focused on our recent sculpture exhibition Woman Warrior, by sculptors Matthew Quintana and Brett Chomer.  Through their work they focus on the values of honor, family unity, sacrifice, tradition, and pride.  Woman Warrior is on Display March through August 2024. 

Until recently Women’s service was in many ways restricted, yet they found a way to serve and protect their country.  For over 200 years, women have served as key figures in American Military History.  During the Revolutionary War, as the Colonist vowed to unshackle themselves from the British Empire, their families were in tow to the battlefields.  Daughters and Mothers set out alongside George Washingtons Continental Army.  They aided in food preparation and foraging, nursing the wounded. They laundered and mended the makeshift uniforms of the day, but most importantly they served to boost morale on the battlefield, forming a sense of home and normalcy.  

During the American Civil War, women continue to serve in the way their predecessors had established, extending their efforts to maintain the vast number of farms, growing crops to keep soldiers fed.  Women found the direct action of nursing the wounded to be the most directly beneficial, aiding in the care and recovery of the injured and infirmed. These women were able to legitimize their role with the development of the United States Army Nurses, which advocated and encouraged each woman towards education and professional training.  At the turn of the century the United States Army Nurses formalized as United States Army Nurses Corps recognizing women under the official military hierarchy.   With the arrival of World War One, women’s roles were broadening and becoming more crucial to ensuring the success of the war effort abroad and at home.   

The U.S. Navy allowed women to serve for the first time in the rank of Yeoman, nicknamed the “Yeomanettes” they performed clerical and administrative duties.  Their Army counterpart the “Hello Girls” served in the United States Army Signal Corps serving as telephone operators.  World War One established women’s position in the support roles of the military chain of command creating a precedence and attitude shift that paved the way for the WAACs, WASPs, WAVEs, and SPARs of World War Two.  Over a quarter million women enlisted in non-combat roles in World War Two, freeing men to fight at the front lines.   They maintained their femininity and distinguished themselves from their male counterparts, their uniform regulations included make-up, nail polish, skirts, and a well-done hairdo. 

Their dedication and willingness to put their lives on the line to ensure victory was not always celebrated.  After male soldiers returned home, their roles were reassigned to their male counterparts, and they fought for decades after for recognition and access to Veterans Benefits.  In 1948 President Truman signed the Women’s Arm Service Integration Act, recognizing and allowing women to serve in all branches of the military.   In Korea and Vietnam women continued to serve in support, administrative, and nursing roles.    It would take over 65 years before women would be allowed to serve in combat position and afforded them the opportunity to serve in any role or designation within the United States Armed Forces. 

Master Sergeant Judy Quintana served 23 years in the United States Air Force.  She served as the Superintendent of Plans and Programs with the 17th Security Forces squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo Texas.  Judy Commissioned her brother, a sculptor, to cast her figure in bronze.  Woman Warrior serves to stand as a monument representing and recognizing all women who have served.  The sculpture serves as a tribute to all women in the armed forces, Quintana felt there were too few monuments dedicated to women serving alongside their male counter parts.  Collaborating with her brother, they travel and exhibit the work, it’s been coast to coast on display across the country.  The barriers and bounds that women have broken are only now being honored and observed.  Judy Quintana felt the lack of recognition throughout and after her service. She was determined to change that lack of recognition, working to shift attitudes and perceptions with her sculpture. 

As Quintana traces the path of the women who served before her, she also was inspired by her grandfather Juan P. Quintana, who instilled dedication and pride in service to all of his family.  This rang particularly true for Judy Quintana, who chose to enlist, selflessly serving her country.  Juan P. Quintana, who enlisted on June 27th, 1917, served 19 years in the United States Army.   Juan, a Jicarilla Apache, would not be given United States Citizenship for 7 years.  On June 2nd, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed into law the Indian Citizenship Act, which marked the end of a long debate and struggle, at a federal level, over full birthright citizenship for American Indians. The act read that “all noncitizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States.” Juan served and fought in WW1 in the Argonne Forest in France and throughout Germany.  Although he was not recognized as a citizen for 7 years of his service, he unequivocally considered this his country and wanted to protect it, which prompted him to leave home and enlist at just the age of 16.  His willingness to protect the land he was born on, pride and the family tradition of selfless service was a supreme value he instilled in his family.  Beyond his military service he served his community as well, in the local Native Hospital and school, taking pride and care in their upkeep, and in the health and well-being of his neighbors and community.   

The New Mexico Military Museum takes great pride in working with veterans like Master Sergeant Quintana, and her family to continue pay tribute to and honor our veterans of any gender.  Woman Warrior is a prime example of the values which we continue to promote and exhibit, honor, family unity, sacrifice, tradition, and pride.  We would like to thank sculptors Matthew Quintana and Brett Chomer for sharing their work with us and our guests, as well as Master Sergeant Quintana for her tireless efforts in assisting and promoting the Veteran Communities in New Mexico.  



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