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DoD News Briefing: Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre
October 21, 1997

America could not have won its greatest struggles without women in military service to America.

America -- America today is free, prosperous and a beacon of light to a still-troubled world because women saw the opportunity and the responsibility to serve.

This memorial fills a void in our collective national consciousness which has obscured the contribution of women in military service. This memorial will also inspire women today and in future years to live up to their God-given talents and their civic responsibilities. I am very proud to serve in a Defense Department that is opening doors of opportunity to women in military service.

But while we celebrate tonight, we also acknowledge that America still falls short of that second goal outlined in the Constitution, to form a more perfect union. The Department of Defense today provides more opportunity for women than at any time in previous history. But we have not yet created an atmosphere in the Department that is free from intimidation and harassment for women in military service.

Far too many women in uniform report disturbing things about life in the military. The Army this summer, to its enduring credit, conducted a survey which showed that large percentages of women in our military feel intimidation and harassment and don't believe the command structure will treat their concerns with the same objectivity and seriousness as men who voice their concerns.

All of this is evidence that we still have yet to form a more perfect union. Secretary Cohen and I, General Ralston, Secretary West who's here tonight, we all are totally committed to correcting this weakness.

This memorial, therefore, not only reminds us of the great contributions of women in the past, but also reminds us that we yet have more barriers to knock down to create the dream and vision by our constitutional framers to create that more perfect union.

This memorial is one more paving stone in the road of American democracy and freedom. Ultimately this road will take us back to where we started to the idealism framed by our founding fathers and founding mothers. President Kennedy once said, "A nation reveals itself by those it honors, those it remembers."

Tonight, we recover ourselves from our national amnesia. I want to personally thank all of the women and undoubtedly a few men who helped make this marvelous monument a reality. You truly have been women in service to America.

Thank you.