ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. –Have you ever wondered about the 100-year-old trees that stand like giants around APG? I happen to have one just outside my window, and I sometimes think about some of the stories they could tell if only they could talk. They would probably tell us about the sounds of boots hitting the pavement in large numbers, cadence calling “Jodies” during PT formations, and bayonets clacking as they hit the targets destined to prepare Soldiers over 54 years ago, right here on these very grounds.
March was an opportunity for me to connect with the past personally, both as a woman in the military and as the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran. As I reflect on who I am today and how I got here, I think about the many heroes who made this possible.
As you all know, we celebrated Women’s History Month in March and I used that time to think about the brave women who have come before us that sacrificed so much so that we could live our very best today. The strength of the Army comes from its diversity. These women fought hard and forged the way, removing barriers for so many successful women to follow. Army leaders continue to set the conditions for all Soldiers and Army Civilians to reach their full potential and assign tasks and jobs throughout the force based on skills, experience, and ability - not gender.
We can see the Army’s commitment to developing diversity in the force every day. Making up 16% of the total force by the end of 2021, the Army has assessed and integrated more than 9,400 women into Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery, Air Defense, Engineer, Field Artillery and Aviation specialties. In 2021, Secretary Christine Wormuth was sworn in as the 25th Secretary of the Army and the first woman named to the service’s highest position. Later that year, Lt. Gen. Donna Martin became the first woman to be appointed Inspector General of the Army. The Army also had its first all-woman changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
And while women continue to take advantage of the opportunities finally open to them through elite training and schools, they are also able to see women in leadership roles previously held only by men. In October 2021, Gen. Laura Richardson became the second woman in Army history promoted to the rank of four-star general and only the second woman in history to lead a combatant command. We know that when women succeed, America succeeds. The strength of our nation rests on whether we make it possible for every citizen to contribute to our growth and prosperity. As we honor the many patriots who have shaped not only the destinies of other women, but also the direction of our history, let us resolve to build on their efforts in our own time.
March was also a time for us to recognize and honor another amazing group of Veterans. National Vietnam War Veterans Day is observed on March 29, the anniversary of the withdrawal of combat and combat support units from South Vietnam in 1973. More than 9 million Americans served from 1955 to 1975 and 2.7 million men and women served in-country during the Vietnam War. My father served for the entire duration of the Tet Offensive, from January 1968 – December 1969. He started on Aberdeen Proving Ground as a heavy wheeled mechanic and was immediately deployed to Cu Chi Base Camp, home of the 25th Infantry Division, northwest of Saigon in Southern Vietnam. I am so grateful to be here today, 30 years into my career, and share with him the place where it all started. He received a Bronze Star with Valor, 2 Bronze Stars, 3 Purple Hearts, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm.
There are still about six million Vietnam Veterans but more than 600 die every day. I ask you to please help us honor these heroes who served and sacrificed in a very complicated time in our history by connecting with them before our opportunity vanishes. I am a proud woman serving in the Army today because of all these brave men and women.
Thank you for the work you continue to do and for taking care of each other. It truly makes all the difference.
Your Command Sergeant Major,