Arlington women's memorial highlights the struggles and sacrifices of female veterans

Their work is the stuff of legend. Their service to the nation unmistakable. But the contributions – and stories – of women veterans is often overlooked. A unique memorial at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery is designed to help change that.

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial tells the stories of veterans like 90-year-old Kiki Shappell, who recently visited for the first time.
 
"I had been doing war work, Rosie the Riveter and things like that, and I felt that I wanted to do something more directly connected with winning the war," Shappell told CBS News' Jan Crawford.

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The entrance to Arlington National Cemetery CBS News


 
Shappell joined the Navy as an airplane repair technician during World War II despite being underage. She lied about her age because she knew serving in the military could change her life. She went on to earn a master's degree in engineering through the G.I. bill, eventually building airplanes at Lockheed Martin. She credits joining the military.
 
"The Navy gave me a marvelous opportunity to do things I would have never been able to do," Shappell said. "The foundation was from my Navy service. It was the smartest decision I ever made."
 
But for Shappell and other women serving in the 1940s, it wasn't easy.

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Kiki Shappell CBS News

"The women came back from World War II and they were told 'Thank you for your service, go home,'" Maj. Gen. Ann McWilliams said. She oversees the memorial and says its mission is to preserve the stories of women like Shappell – their struggles and their sacrifices.
 
"Because of what she did and the nurses of World War I did… Was like building blocks that would tell our nation, these women can do it," McWilliams said. "Every story is unique and they are important not just to them, their family, but to our nation."

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She says it's her goal to have all women who have served or are serving included in the register.  For Shappell, the World War II displays brought back memories of a time that changed her life.
 
"This uniform here appeared the last couple months of the war, and all of a sudden we had something different to wear," she told Crawford while at the memorial.
 
All of this a way to remember their service and preserve their life stories for future generations.
 
"I see a great deal of progress now. There are plenty of women of high achievement in the military and I'm proud of them," Shappell said.