Celebration of a Decade
Women In Military Service Memorial Marks First 10 Years
Photo by Donna Parry.
Celebrate, reunite, and remember. Some of the faces were young, some old. Army green stood shoulder to shoulder with Air Force blue with Marines, Navy and Coast Guard nearby. And just as they did 10 years before, they had come together to celebrate, reunite and remember because one thing bound them together still—they were women in uniform. Nearly 2,000 servicewomen and women veterans whose service spanned nearly 70 years, and their families and friends gathered Nov. 1-3 to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the dedication of the Women In Military Service Memorial with three spectacular, fun-filled days of anniversary events.
More Than 600 Celebrate at Gala Dinner
The celebration kicked off with a Gala Dinner held at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, on Nov. 1. Against the elegant backdrop of the museum’s Great Hall, more than 600 guests attended this spectacular black-tie affair which included a program emceed by ABC News commentator and author Cokie Roberts. The evening included remarks by former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers and a keynote by the Honorable David S. C. Chu, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, as well as musical entertainment provided by the 2007 Military Idol winner SPC Vicki Golding, DC ARNG.
Food, Fun & Friends at Reunion Program
The next day, the celebration moved to the DC National Guard Armory where 1,100 servicewomen gathered for food and fun with friends, old and new. In addition to some 20 exhibitors on hand, a satellite Women’s Memorial Gift Shop, and remarks by two senior military women, Reunion goers also had the opportunity to dance, sing and make memories.
The Official Anniversary Ceremony
On Saturday, Nov. 3, some 1,700 people gathered outside the Memorial for the official 10th Anniversary program. The US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps lead the way for the Armed Forces Color Guard which opened the ceremony which included remarks by several DoD officials, including Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Gordon Mansfield, and a keynote address by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. One of the highlights of the ceremony—something that has become a tradition at Women’s Memorial events—was the “Voices of the Women” portion of the program. Of the seven women who spoke on behalf of their services, Vietnam veteran and former Army nurse Marsha Four captured not only the spirit of the day, but the true spirit behind the Women’s Memorial and the women it honors. “As we begin to slowly move into what will be our past, we hold faith knowing that many of you, as our future, will continue to step up to the challenges that still remain, embracing your legacy, finding your place in history and inspiring others,” Four said. “We knew you were coming.”
Honoring the Fallen With Candles & Rose Petals
Although the day’s official program concluded amid a standing ovation and applause for the flyover of Blackhawk helicopters, one being piloted by a woman, those in attendance returned that evening for the final event of the weekend. Like a decade ago, dusk found hundreds of women gathered at the Lincoln Memorial with candles in hand. Their march took them across Memorial Bridge and down Memorial Drive where they gathered in solemn remembrance of all servicewomen who have passed. In special tribute to the memory of the women who have given their lives in today’s Global War on Terror, each of their 98 names were read and rose petals dropped into the Memorial’s reflecting pool. The evening’s keynote speaker, VADM Thomas J. Barrett, former Coast Guard Vice Commandant and current Deputy Secretary of Transportation, tossed a final handful of petals into the pool to honor the 99th female casualty whose death was reported that day.
In another 10 years, we’ll gather to celebrate, reunite, and remember once again. Some of the faces will still be young, while others will grow old. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard women will stand shoulder to shoulder. And one thing will bind them together just as it did when the Memorial was built and just as it did on the 10th Anniversary—they were women in uniform.
Editor’s Note: Look for more coverage of 10th Anniversary Events in the next issue of The Register.