FORT LEE, Va. (Army News Service, Feb. 5, 2007) - More than 100 people were on hand Saturday as the U.S. Army Women's Museum opened an exhibit recognizing the contributions of women Soldiers during the war on terrorism.
The exhibit features Kentucky National Guard's Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, the first woman awarded the Silver Star since World War II. Hester received the medal while serving in Iraq, following a March 20, 2005, ambush near the town of Salman Pak.
"I've always been reluctant to be in the spotlight," Hester said during the unveiling. "I'm honored to be part of this event, and what the museum has done here is amazing."
Hester, along with seven other team members of the Kentucky National Guard's
617th Military Police squad, Raven 42, were recognized during the unveiling
"This event has put certain individuals - Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester and Spc. Ashley Pullen - in the public spotlight," said Kentucky Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Donald C. Storm. "Their actions during the battle of Salman Pak reignited a whirlwind of discussion across this great nation regarding the role of women in combat. Their actions were just what I expected from a pair of well-trained Kentucky National Guard Soldiers."
The exhibit features a diorama of an Army Humvee with Hester and Staff Sgt. Timothy F. Nein - the Raven 42 squad leader who also received the Silver Star - standing at the front giving direction to Soldiers during the ambush. Also featured are photos of each Soldier involved in the battle of Salman Pak and replicas of the awards they received.
The Soldiers of fourth platoon, second squad, thwarted an insurgent attack on a coalition convoy March 20, 2005. After the convoy came under heavy fire, Hester "maneuvered her team through the kill zone into a flanking position where she assaulted a trench line with grenades and M203 rounds," according to her Silver Star citation.
For their actions, every member of the squad was honored for heroism in
combat. Three Bronze Stars with the Valor device, three Army Commendation
Medals with the Valor device and four purple hearts were awarded.
"I don't want to overshadow everyone's actions of that day," Hester said after the unveiling of the exhibit. "If it wasn't for these guys, I wouldn't be here today and this wouldn't be happening," she said of her fellow Raven 42 squad members.
During the brief ceremony, Sgt. Jason Mike, who also received the Silver Star, said he was proud that the Army has a women's museum and was honoring Hester and Pullen.
"This shows that America truly is a melting pot," he said, noting that in addition to two women, the squad also comprised two Hispanic Soldiers, an African-American and Soldiers of all religious backgrounds. "I hope what the public takes away from this is we are Soldiers who take our job and our training seriously."
Hester also asked people not to forget that Soldiers are fighting every day in Iraq and Afghanistan for the freedoms that many Americans take for granted, and offered advice to young women who are thinking of enlisting in the military.
"If you have a goal or a dream, you can do it," she said, noting that there are a few limitations for female Soldiers. "If your heart is set on it, don't let anything stand in your way."
The U.S. Army Women's Museum tells the story of women's contributions to the Army from colonial period to present day. It serves as the central repository for historical material pertaining to women in the Army, including thousands of artifacts, photos and oral history. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to Army women.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.awm.lee.army.mil"target=_blank> www.awm.lee.army.mil</a>.