WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army Women’s Foundation conducted its 12th Annual Scholarship Awards and Hall of Fame Induction on March 11, at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Army Women's Foundation recognizes the extraordinary achievements of Army women and those who support them. Retired Chaplain (Col.) Donna Weddle, Chaplain (Col.) Karen Meeker, and retired Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Karen Diefendorf were among the 16 women inducted into the 2020 Hall of Fame.
Retired CH (Col.) Weddle served as an Army chaplain on active duty for more than 27 years, and retired in 2006, after serving as the Joint Staff chaplain in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She holds the distinction of being the first member of the Women’s Army Corps to serve as an Army chaplain; and she was the first woman chaplain in a combat arms brigade (197th Infantry Brigade), and the first female division chaplain to deploy with the 1st Infantry Division to Bosnia and Germany.
CH (Col.) Karen Meeker holds the distinction of being a master parachutist, the first female chaplain to complete the Pathfinder course, and the first woman chaplain to serve in Army Special Operations. She was the first woman chaplain to serve as executive officer for the Army Chief of Chaplains.
“It is such an honor every day to put on this uniform, the sacred cloth of our nation, and to care for the souls of the Army family,” said Meeker, during the induction ceremony. “I just thank God for that, and I thank God for all those who have poured into my life to bring me to this point. That is in itself enough reward and recognition. Our Army is better and stronger when God hears from the rich diversity of God’s creation. I am thankful to serve in the ranks to listen, learn, and lead.”
Retired CH (Lt. Col.) Diefendorf became the first female chaplain to become a paratrooper and the first to be assigned to an operational airborne unit, when she received her first active duty assignment in 1986, with the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga. She rose through the ranks and retired in 2006, after serving in the Force Structure Office for the Chief of Chaplains at the Pentagon. In 2009, she was recalled to active duty, and served as the director of training development at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, S.C. She retired with 24 years of service.
During the induction ceremony, Diefendorf quoted the Greek statesman Pericles: “’What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.’” She added, “I am so grateful that God has allowed me to be a part of the tapestry of the U.S. Army.”
The Army Women’s Foundation honors the service and sacrifices of U.S. Army women through its Hall of Fame and its Special Recognition Awards program. Women who have served in the Army or the Armed Forces, and who contributed extraordinary service are eligible for induction into the U.S. Army Women’s Hall of Fame. Special Recognition Awards are presented to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to women in the Army or the Armed Forces.