"Empowered women empower women" was the message of the Fort McCoy Women's History Month observance, held March 14 at McCoy's Community Center.

The guest speaker was Brig. Gen. Twanda E. Young, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. Amanda Schmock, an area community member whose parents retired from Fort McCoy, sang the national anthem. The invocation was given by Chaplain (Capt.) Sharon McQueary, the chaplain for Cold Steel III at Fort McCoy.

Speaking to a crowd of Soldiers and civilians, Young shared the importance of acting with character, empowering women to improve both their situations and the situations of those around them, and building a legacy to pass on to future generations.

"No one gets anywhere by themselves," Young said. Everyone stands on the shoulders of those who came before them and will provide support -- and examples -- to those who come after.

Young shared a story from her life that she said taught her the importance of character. Young was the first in her family to attend college, and she earned a four-year paid scholarship. Before she left for college, her mother told her she wanted her to work in the cotton fields for a summer.

"Your character must be strong so you don't mess up this opportunity," Young's mother told her.

Young said her job was to trim the grass around the cotton so it would grow better. Because it was so hot outside and the rows were so long, Young said she didn't do as thorough of a job as she could have, figuring it wouldn't make a difference.

Her mother was the foreman and on checking her work, chastised her for leaving some of the grass. Young said she told her it didn't matter; their boss would never check all the rows and wouldn't know some of the grass was still there.

"It doesn't matter," her mother said. "You know you left it. That's what matters."

The episode taught her "to have the fortitude to do right ... even when someone wasn't looking," Young said.

It's a lesson she's tried to pass on to both her Soldiers and her daughter, she said. "I appreciate what (they) do when ... no one is around to see it."

In addition to building a personal legacy, Young said it's important to empower others by holding up examples

"We must continue to focus the spotlight on women in history and around the world who defy stereotypes and break down barriers," Young said.

She also challenged others to consider their own contributions and whether they were having a positive influence.

"When is the last time you surveyed yourself honestly as to the impact you have made ... to change the narrative (and) to change the culture?" Young asked. "It is important for women -- and men -- to ensure you have a legacy to build on and to stand on."

The observance was organized by the Fort McCoy Equal Opportunity office.