ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- "It's probably hard to imagine a time when people in our country could not participate in a freedom that now seems so basic that it seems inherent," said Alberta Freeman, as she addressed the audience at Anniston Army Depot's Women's Equality Day Luncheon Aug. 30.

Less than 100 years ago, the addition of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1920, guaranteeing women the right to vote. This action marked the culmination of the long struggle by women to gain an equal voice in their government.

Social change is never without struggle. Changing society and changing the law requires changing the hearts and minds of people. "It takes courage, commitment, perseverance and passion," Freeman said. "It is disturbing to see some people neglecting to exercise this privilege that many gave so much for us to have. I encourage each of you, please don't dare neglect to vote, every opportunity you have."

The U.S. Army celebrates Women's Equality Day by recognizing the service of women to the nation since 1775 and those who remain an invaluable and essential part of the Army.

While many brave pioneers have led the way, Freeman mentioned a trailblazer from our generation, Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody. Now a retired general of the U. S. Army, Dunwoody was the first woman in the military to achieve a four-star officer rank.

For women to achieve these kinds of successes, it took fighting against the odds, hard work and making grave personal sacrifices. It took believing in something stronger and bigger than themselves.

One of the first female directors on the depot, Freeman knows the story all too well.

She left a permanent position with the Internal Revenue Service and accepted a temporary position at ANAD in 1979 as a GS-3 Supply Clerk.

Many people questioned her decision, but she felt if she got her foot in the door, there were other possibilities.

"In my mind, there were no what ifs," she said. "I appreciated my job and performed my duties as if they were as important as a GS-11. I applied for every job that came my way. And after the first 95, I inquired to find out what could I do to make myself more marketable. The key is that I believed. I never gave up. I never took my eyes off the prize. And the prize turned out to be greater that I even I imagined."

So you may be wondering, what we can do. Stay informed, learn to discuss and learn to listen without letting emotions overtake us. We can never know each other's hearts, minds and hurts without talking and listening. It takes continual communication to continually make progress, she said.

Freeman challenged the audience to reach their goals, land the right job, and achieve that life-long ambition. "While you're waiting, don't stop living, don't stop loving and don't stop laughing because things aren't perfect," she said. "The good you do for others and the way you make others feel is another true measure of success of your life."

The Army is dedicated to ensuring equality for all its members. Women play vital roles as Soldiers and Civilians and are critical members of the Army team. Female Soldiers make up 17.4 percent of the Army and are able to serve in any military occupation, as long as they qualify and meet the specific required standards.

"Most skill sets and careers have females and many have broken the glass ceiling," said ANAD Commander Col. Joel Warhurst. "Much as been done and there is still more to do. Challenge the system and seek out your potential."