By Lt. Col. Ellen KrenkeNovember 16, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va., (Army News Service, Nov. 11, 2010) -- Women who served in the Women's Army Corps, the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services, were not always considered equals, but they continued to voluntarily serve in defense of their nation, the senior enlisted advisor of the National Guard said Thursday.
"It is my honor to stand on the shoulders of great American servicewomen, who made it possible for females to serve in leadership positions," Command Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall told an audience at the Women in Military Service to America memorial at Arlington Cemetery. "I will continue to share the heroic stories of women, so that generations to come will know of their tremendous sacrifice to this nation."
Jelinski-Hall said early women warriors like Air Force Capt. Norma Parson, the first female to join the Air National Guard in 1956, should be remembered.
"These women were true trail blazers," she said.
"In the face of much opposition and joining in what was then a 'man's world,' they overcame countless obstacles to serve with honor and distinction," she said. "The question for those of us serving today is simple: 'What path will we blaze''"
Jelinski-Hall said she sees pride, honor and determination in today's female servicemembers. "Just as our predecessors did, when you are confronted with a situation that calls for strength of character, I know you will respond as they did," she said. "You will make the right decision. You are blazing a new path for those who will follow you."
Confronting challenges will never be easy or comfortable, but it will be always be necessary, Jelinski-Hall said, adding that when you are confronted with such a situation, you should recall the words of President Abraham Lincoln: "Courage is not the absence of fear. It is going forward in the face of fear."
In 2005, Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, a military police officer in the Kentucky National Guard, became the first female Soldier awarded the Silver Star since World War II.
Building the legacy of the American fighting woman has come at steep price. Records show that more than 80 women were killed in battle during the Civil War and Spanish American War. Hundreds of women lost their lives in World War I and World War II. Today, more than 130 women warriors have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"These women broke barriers," Jelinski-Hall said. "It is fitting today that we meet at the women's memorial next to this hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery, to remember those brave men and women who have gone before us."
"Thousands lie here in peace, having made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom the world over. This is just a small part of the history of the American fighting woman. This is our history," she said.
Jelinski-Hall said history will show that American Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen are unlike any other military in the world.
"We have not fought for a king, for pay, for plunder or for land," she said. "Since the founding of our nation, our servicemen and women have fought to defend our freedom and the freedom of others around the world."
Veteran's Day gives us an opportunity to thank all veterans and to pay respect to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, Jelinski-Hall said.
"Today, we are all wearing the uniform of the finest military in the world, serving with courage, honor and distinction in the fight," she said. "We're driving in convoys, manning security posts, flying combat missions, conducting medevacs. Women are taking on new roles and responsibilities. We are putting our lives on the line everyday, as it should be."