The Noncommissioned Officer Academy, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and the installation Equal Opportunity Office hosted a Women's Equality Day observance and luncheon Tuesday at Pershing Community Center to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the military throughout history with special performers and guest speakers.

Every August, Fort Leonard Wood takes a moment to recognize the importance of women's equality. This year, Fort Leonard Wood celebrated women's accomplishments in the military from the Revolutionary War through the present day. This year's theme was "Then and Now."

"Women have served our nation since its conception and have proved to be an invaluable and essential part in our nation's defense," said Staff Sgt. Christina Williams, narrator for the event and operations sergeant for the Noncommissioned Officers Academy.

"Today's military represents the best talent, regardless of gender," Williams continued. "Ninety-eight years after the 19th Amendment was signed, women continue to excel as leaders."

Brig. Gen. Donna Martin, former commandant of the United States Military Police School, served as the guest speaker for the program.

"Through protests and activism, generations of courageous women have appealed to the values of the heart of our nation and fought to give meaning to give to the idea that we are all created equal," Martin said.

Martin explained that young women today stand on the shoulders of those who have come before them to carry forward their legacy and achievements.

"With grit and resolve, they have fought to overcome discrimination and shattered glass ceilings," Martin said. "After decades of slow, steady and determined progress, they have widened the opportunity for women and girls across our country."

Martin also encouraged women to continue moving forward and take on leadership challenges that were not available to them in the past.

"I would like to encourage women to dream big, forge a path through the obstacles and achieve your full potential," Martin said.

"If we push hard now, this next wave can be the last wave," she said. "In the future, there will be no more female leaders, there will just be leaders."

"As a nation, we must join our voices with the course of history and push forward with faith to forge a more equal society for all our granddaughters, one where a woman's potential is only limited by the size of her dreams and the power of her imagination," Martin said.

Following Martin's speech, Sgt. Maj. Joel Zecca, Noncommissioned Officer Academy commandant, presented her with a memento of appreciation.

The event also included vocal and instrumental performances by the 399th Army Band.