By Amy PerryMarch 23, 2010
FORT LEE, Va. (Army News Service March 23, 2010) -- A seven-year, $800,000 U.S. Army Women's Museum expansion project here, concluded with a March 19 ribbon-cutting ceremony and Women's History Month program.
The museum expansion includes a new exhibit titled "writing women back into history," which corresponds with the Department of Defense theme for the 2010 Women's History Month observance.
About 200 guests attended the event, which included remarks by Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers, commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command, Sustainment Center of Excellence and Fort Lee, and featured speaker, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones, appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense White House Liaison. Also attending the ceremony was retired Maj. Gen. Dee McWilliams, Army Women's Foundation president, and Peggy Trossen, AWF executive director. AWF was responsible for raising the funds for the new expansion to the museum.
"The first temporary exhibit to be displayed in the new space examines the history of women in the Army Chaplain Corps," said Francoise Bonnell, AWM acting director. "It highlights their challenges and contributions in providing for the spiritual needs of Army Soldiers. It uses original photographs and archival documents to trace the history of the first women to serve in the chaplaincy."
A special exhibit was available after the ceremony and it was designed to showcase the important contributions made by Fort Lee women. The display honored women who are actively shaping history through current contributions.
"The first exhibit to be displayed was for Women's History Month and focuses on several women from the Fort Lee community whom represent the active Army, Army Reserve and Army civilians," said Bonnell. "Many of them are 'firsts' in varying fields hence why we were interested in displaying something on them for 'writing women back into history.'"
Several members of the Fort Lee community were featured. A few of them included: Brig. Gen. Karen LeDoux, 94th Division (Force Sustainment) commanding general; Col. Shelley A. Richardson, Army Logistics University president; Col. Gwendolyn Bingham, CASCOM and SCoE chief of staff; Command Sgt. Maj. June Seay, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Lee commander; and JoAnn Chambers, Defense Commissary Agency chief of staff.
The U.S. Army Women's Museum is the only Army museum that focuses on the contributions of females who've served, and it was only fitting that the month's observance be held there. This year also marked the 30th anniversary of President Jimmy Carter declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as the first National Women's History Week.
Chambers kicked off the program and said the day was dedicated to not only highlighting women's contributions in the Army, but also the contributions of the museum.
"Every day, the Army Women's Museum is doing an amazing job at rewriting women back into history," Chambers said. "I hope the time will come that women's history is just 'history.'"
Jones, the guest speaker, said she knows all about being a part of history. By earning command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Reserve, she was the first woman to serve as command sergeant major of any of the Army components. She was also the first woman selected as class president at the U.S. Sergeants Major Academy.
"Writing women back into history is important, as we know too much of it is left out," said Jones, as she reflected on the month's theme. "There is history being made every day. The history is great, and good to know, but it's the legacy left behind that is really important."
"Accomplishments and achievements tell me what you did when you lived," she continued, "but legacy tells me how you did it."
Jones said she couldn't be where she is today without the women who came before her.
"I stand here today as a recipient of the contributions by women who came before me," she said.
As an American, Jones said, everyone has the opportunity to serve, and emphasized "as an American," and not "as a woman."
Serving in the military has not always been considered as a typical path for women, Jones said, but women serving today are taking the typical path because women have always served in the military, from the earliest conflicts (American Revolutionary War) to the latest in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We are individuals who choose to serve our country, not because we're women, but because we can," she said.
To close up her speech, Jones brought out a special prop: a toy fairy wand. She said she had one special wish for everyone.
"My wish for you is to write women back into history," she said. "Make an environment for women (to write themselves into history)."