PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The sweep of involvement by women in America's progress, society and military was highlighted March 26 in a Women's History Month observance at the operational headquarters of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

Guest speaker Margaret Brewington Wright cited three women who illustrate the 2014 theme "Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment." For character, Lupita Nyong'o, winner of the Academy Award for supporting actress; for courage, Cathay Williams, who disguised herself to serve in the Army in the late 1860s; and for commitment, Helen Keller, an advocate for people with disabilities.

"They went through something so you and I can share the freedom and the opportunities that we have today," Wright said. "Let's not forget their story."

Wright is an educator, author and ordained minister from Pueblo, Colo.

Today's girls and women still face challenges, particularly in having the proper level of income and financial means to meet their needs, she said. Basic support such as paid sick leave and child care are examples.

"We the people have work to do today," Wright said. "Most importantly, let's help our women and children write a new story, an unforgettable story."

The event also served as an opportunity to emphasize the role of women in researching, exploring and investigating space and missile defense.

Women from 11 nations have flown in space, Col. Greg Bowen, deputy commander for support, said in the event's opening remarks. The newest class of NASA astronaut candidates is 50 percent female--four candidates out of eight, Bowen noted. Army Maj. Anne McClain, a helicopter pilot and graduate of the Navy Test Pilot School, is one of the astronaut candidates.

"In industry, academia and government there are many thousands of women who have contributed and will continue to contribute in designing, building and operating space systems from the Earth to the stars, whether or not those systems have people on board," Bowen said.