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Generations Unite to Honor Women in the Military

By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 21, 1997 – Generations of women veterans, their families and friends gathered at several events spanning four days to honor the past, present and future of women in the military.

As symbolic as the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, the stories the women brought to the Oct. 18 dedication were of bravery, breaking barriers and paving the way for future women to serve their country.

Those barrier-breakers were women like Frieda Hardin who entered the U.S. Navy in 1918, and served almost two years during World War I. At 101, she vowed to participate in the dedication ceremony, and she did. Her message to present and future military women was "go for it."

"In my 101 years of living, I have observed many wonderful achievements, but none as important or as beautiful as the progress of women taking their rightful place in society," Hardin said.

Hardin recalled when she joined the Navy, women hadn't earned the right to vote. "Now," she said, "women occupy important offices and are in leadership positions, not only in the military, but also in business, education, government and almost every form of human activity."

Following Hardin's moving speech, Vice President Al Gore attested to the giant leaps military women have made in just the last decade. "We have seen the first women serve at three-star rank; the first woman service secretary; the first women fighter pilots in operational units; the first woman to command a flying wing; the first woman to pilot a space shuttle; the first woman to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier," he said. "Today, women are a vital element of every aspect of our mission around the world, 24 hours a day, at sea, on the ground, in the air and even in space."

A black-tie gala on Oct. 16 kicked off the four days of dedication events. On Oct. 17, each service held luncheons followed by a reunion reception that evening bringing all services together. The formal dedication was Oct. 18 followed by a candlelight march and service of remembrance. A morning ceremony, "A Time to Give Thanks," at the Arlington Cemetary Amphitheather wrapped up events on Oct. 19. The memorial opened to the public Oct. 20.

The women's memorial is at the gateway to Arlington Cemetery and includes an upper terrace, reflecting pool and education center featuring a theater, Hall of Honor, exhibit hall and gift shop. At the heart of the memorial is the computer register which tells the stories of the women who served.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, president, Women in Military Service for American Memorial Foundation, said, "Nothing can obscure the spirit of the women who are coming here. We're going to tell that story -- make it visible for the first time."

More than 250,000 women have registered or been registered by family or friends. The memorial is still trying to reach the almost 2 million women who served in all branches of the armed forces, so they can be included in the register. Be a part of women's history in the military. To register, call 1-800-4-SALUTE.

(NOTE TO EDITORS: The photos below can also be used with Release #97682 Throngs Witness Memorial Dedication.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageRepresenting the Army Nurse Corps, Brig. Gen. Bettye Simmons and Spc. Wendy Ramsbottom toss rose petals in the women's memorial reflecting pool in remembrance of those service women who went before them. The Rose Petal Ceremony was part of the Candlelight March and Service of Remembrance Oct. 18. Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageRetired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, president of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, and Mary Elcano, senior vice president and general counsel of the U.S. Postal Service, unveil the commemorative stamp honoring women in military service. Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageRetired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught speaks during at the Women in Military Service for America Reunion held Oct. 17 at the D.C. Armory in Washington. Vaught, women's memorial foundation president, hosted nearly 6,000 women veterans, family and friends. Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageWorld War I Navy Yeoman Frieda Mae Hardin, accompanied by her son, retired Navy Capt. Jerald Kirsten, speaks during the dedication of the Women in Military Service for American Memorial. Hardin, 101, told women in the military and young women who may be thinking about a military career to "go for it! " during her speech. Rudi Williams  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageRetired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught chats with an Army veteran while signing autographs after the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Oct. 18. Vaught is president of the memorial foundation. Rudi Williams  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageVice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, speak with two women veterans during dedication ceremonies for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va. Rudi Williams  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavajo women veterans cross Memorial Bridge connecting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington with Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia during ceremonies dedicating the Women in Military Service to America Memorial. Rudi William  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Senior Chief Petty Officer Theresa Marie Hanson; World War I Navy Yeoman First Class Anne Pedersen Freeman; Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, president of the women's memorial foundation; and Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Kelly Comstock place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns Oct. 19 as part of events celebrating the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Army Sgt. Rachael Ridenour, a woman Tomb guard, helps place the wreath. Rudi Williams  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageWomen veterans and their friends and families gather during a wreath-laying at the Spirit of Nursing Statue in Arlington National Cemetery. It was the final event of the week-long celebration of the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Rudi Williams  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMore than 30,000 people pack the area surrounding the memorial honoring America's service women at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. The nation's first major memorial, paying tribute to nearly 2 million women who served in defense of our nation throughout history, was dedicated Oct. 18 and opened to the public Oct. 20. Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe Army's first female three-star general, Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy, speaks with Anne Pedersen Freeman before the memorial dedication ceremony. Freeman, 97, served in the Navy for two years during World War I. She was one of two women veterans of that war to attend the dedication. Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageKenny Rogers and Patti Austin belt out a special women's memorial tribute song, "I Will Always Remember You," at the Oct. 18 dedication ceremony of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. The singing stars were accompanied by the Coast Guard Academy Glee Club and "The President's Own" Marine Band. Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageTwo women color guard members stand proudly after the presentation of colors during the Women in Military Service for America Reunion Oct. 17. The reunion was an evening created for service woman, veterans and friends to share memories. Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA  
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