A Change of Command

Foundation President’s Transition Letter to Members and Supporters

Foundation President, retired Air Force Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught (right), passes the the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation leadership torch to retired Army Major General Dee Ann McWilliams, January 2016. Women’s Memorial Foundation photo.

January 4, 2016

Dear Charter Members, Members and Supporters,

Greetings and happy New Year! As we enter 2016, the 30th year since legislation passed authorizing the Women’s Memorial and the 19th year of the Memorial’s operation, it seems a fitting time for reflection and decision on my part.

This past year marked my 29th year as president of the Women’s Memorial Foundation—and I must say it has been an amazing and rewarding 29 years and one of the most gratifying times of my life. I knew, however, the time had come for the Foundation to transition to new leadership so that we capitalize on new technologies and strategies for business and communication and the enthusiasm and commitment of a younger generation of leaders. Like you, I want to assure our extraordinary Women In Military Service For America Memorial remains a viable center for learning about women’s service to the nation and that there is a place where our individual stories are preserved and visible for generations to come.

I am grateful to announce that I will be leaving the Foundation in the very capable hands of retired Army Major General Dee Ann McWilliams. MG McWilliams is intimately familiar with the Foundation, having been a member of our board of directors since 2007 and serving as the board of directors vice chair since 2014. She took the helm as the Foundation president January 1, 2016. I’m confident you will be especially pleased with this extraordinary leader. Click here for an introduction to the general. We’ll be updating the website with MG McWilliams’ biography in the very near future.

In the meantime, I will be staying on at the Foundation with the title “president emeritus,” assisting in the transition, working on a few projects and continuing to speak locally and around the country about the Memorial and the service of military women. MG McWilliams will be doing the heavy lifting and making decisions.

It has been a remarkable 29 years. I am very proud of what we’ve done. Thanks to many of you, we changed the face of monumental Washington, adding military women to those the nation honors. Today, the Women’s Memorial is one of only three major edifices in the entire nation to focus on women—and the only one to focus on military women! I believe we helped give military women a voice and a presence in discussions about our armed forces and finally in our history books. We established our own publishing arm, Military Women’s Press, publishing a handful of books, our annual calendar and Women’s History Month posters. Our world-class archive of artifacts and memorabilia related to women’s service is the largest of its kind in the world, along with our growing oral history collection, which is supported by a corps of nationwide volunteers. These and our small research library have helped countless scholars, historians, journalists, television and movie producers and writers of all kinds tell the story of women’s service. As I write, 259,224 women have taken their rightful place in history by registering their service with the Memorial. While it is less than 10 per cent of military women, past and present, it is still substantial. The registrations reflect military women’s remarkable legacy of patriotism, service, commitment and bravery—a vital and important part of women’s history, our military history and American history. For that reason, I will continue to urge women to register and hope you will too.

As I pass the torch to MG McWilliams, I ask for your continued support of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation. Thanks to your sustained support and donations, nearly 3 million visitors—some from nations where women aren’t even permitted to drive—have learned of the service of women in our nation’s defense; and boys and girls from across America have seen the accomplishments of their grandmothers, mothers, aunts and sisters honored in a major national memorial. It is a powerful statement.

I especially want to thank the World War II women for their deep and enduring support of the Women’s Memorial Foundation as well as their trust in me. Without them and their immeasurable commitment of time, talent and monetary contributions, the Women’s Memorial would never have come to be. My simple “thank you” just doesn’t seem enough. Moreover, your service secured a permanent place in our nation’s armed forces for the women who followed. You changed America and the world for women. Again, I thank you.

Lastly, I want to formally acknowledge and thank our small but talented and faithful Memorial and Foundation staffs for their commitment to the Memorial and military women. I am always amazed at how much we have been able to accomplish with so little, even as we continued to downsize to meet financial constraints. You are the best and I would gladly serve with you again.

My very best wishes to all of you. Let us look forward to a bright future for the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation and a thriving Memorial.

Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, USAF (Ret.)
President Emeritus