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DoD Lauds Women's Contributions During History Month Observance

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2002 – "Women Sustaining the American Spirit," this year's theme for National Women's History Month, was chosen following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America, said Navy Undersecretary Susan M. Livingstone.

The theme recognizes the profound role and impact of women in creating and sustaining the nation, Livingstone told a packed theater March 14 at Arlington National Cemetery's Women in Military Service for America Memorial. DoD's National Women's History Month observance marked the first by a federal agency at the memorial.

The theme, Livingstone said, "focuses our thoughts on the strength and courage of women. Not only throughout the history of our country, but also to this very moment. And to this very day, where American women once again fight and make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom -- now in a global war against terrorism."

If anyone had difficulty in defining the American spirit before Sept. 11, "it became crystal clear to the entire world on that defining day only a brief six months ago," she said.

"The depth of our shared love of country and our fellow citizens; the depth of our resolve to defend our democratic values; the strength of character, courage, bravery and heroism of Americans everywhere; the numerous acts of civility, selfless service and generosity that are at the very heart of our country -- that is the American spirit the world understood on Sept. 11," she said.

"As women of America's Defense Department, it's particularly fitting today that we remember and celebrate our own," she said emphatically.

The more than 200,000 women who serve on active military duty comprise nearly 15 percent of the active force. Another 212,000 women serve in the National Guard and Reserve. More than 245,000 women work as defense civilian employees. More than 615,000 women today are military spouses, Livingstone noted.

"From the early days of this country to Operation Enduring Freedom, and all of the years in between, women in America's defense -- both uniformed and civilian -- have made a difference wherever they've served," she said. She recounted the long history of valor, service and sacrifice by women and then centered on more recent times.

"In the 1960s and '70s, more than 265,000 military and civilian women served during the Vietnam War. Each of them again a volunteer, and 67 of them lost their life in service to this nation," Livingstone said. Nearly 40,000 women were deployed during Operation Desert Storm, she said, with 13 dying in the line of duty and two becoming POWs.

"We're reminded of the bravery of American women in Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Kosovo and Bosnia, and those aboard the USS Cole when terrorists struck in October 2000," Livingstone said. "We are reminded of our courageous forces in Afghanistan, more than 10 percent of whom are women. We are reminded of Marine Sgt. Jeannette Winters, who became the first woman in the U.S. military to die in Operation Enduring Freedom."

She said the patriotism, bravery and determination of the women who went to work at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, also must not go unnoticed.

"Of the 125 Pentagon workers who died that day, 47 were women," she noted. Seven of the women were active duty military members, and the other were civilians.

"They died because of how they lived, working in service to this nation," Livingstone said. "But Sept. 11 was not only about the loss of our sisters, daughters, mothers and grandmothers. It was also about the loss of our brothers, sons, fathers and grandfathers.

"So I ask you now to pledge to never forget," she said. "To never forget the sacrifice and courage of those we lost and their families. To never forget and never lose the renewed depth of American spirit we have felt since Sept. 11. And to never forget that our nation requires and deserves our resolve, our fortitude and our patriotism."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Undersecretary Susan M. Livingstone chats with retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, president of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation. Livingstone was a guest speaker March 14, 2002, at DoD's Women's History Month observance at the Arlington National Cemetery Women's Memorial. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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