By Sgt. Cesar Padilla (20th Public Affairs Detachment, Griots)April 4, 2011
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. -As Air Force Staff Sgt. Courtney Granato, 62nd Maintenance Squadron, begins to read the poem "To See Him Again" by Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945, silence fills Club McChord.
Honored guests, commanders, Soldiers and Airmen came together in celebration of Women's History Month; "Our History is Our Strength!" which was the theme for this year's event on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 28.
Growing from the Sonoma Valley, Calif., school district's weeklong celebration of women's contributions to culture, history and society in 1978, Women's History Month has been observed annually throughout the month of March since 1987.
With slow and graceful melodies provided by the 56th Army Band quintet, the atmosphere was set to honor those women in history who laid the groundwork for equality for the women today.
Mary Jean Sturdevant, the guest of honor, taught aviation for the Army Air Corps at the age of 21 where she trained thousands of men how to fly.
Sturdevant jumped on the opportunity to fly when she became part of the Woman Air Force Service Pilots. A group of young female pilots who became pioneers and heroes during World War II, and served as role models for women to emulate.
"Some of the men weren't happy with what we were doing," said Sturdevant.
With women making up over 47 percent of today's workforce and 20 percent of the military; juggling a career and a family reconfirms the strength of today's women.
"I need to balance both a hard side at work and a soft and gentle side while I'm at home," said Granato, one half of a military couple. "My unit expects me to perform on the same level as anyone else holding my position."
With a round of applause breaking the silence at Club McChord, Granato finishes "To See Him Again."
Granto decided to read Mistral's poem because of the empowerment she gave Latin American women through her work as a poet and educator.
"I look at the great women in history and their accomplishments," said Tamara Jenkins, mayor of DuPont, Wash. "It reminds me of a thread and a fabric that was sewn together to created this beautiful nation and the freedom that comes with it.
As threads of fabric continue to be sewn by today's female Soldiers like Sgt. Leign Ann Hester who was awarded a Silver Star for her actions on March 20, 2005, when her supply convoy was ambushed near the town of Salem Pak, Iraq.
"Her actions saved lives," said Air Force Col. Richard G. Moore Jr., 62nd Airlift Wing vice commander. "She was the first female ever to be cited for valor in close quarters combat."
The reason for celebrating women pioneers and looking back in our history are values instilled in today's Soldiers and Airmen.
"Women's History Month gives homage to the women who have served and motivates those who are currently serving," said Air Force Airman 1st Class Robert M. Dean, 62nd Operations Support Squadron.
As large leaps continue to be made in women's rights and equality, the goal is acceptance based on a person's ability and not their gender.
"We all should look forward to day when we don't recognize Women's History Month anymore, because rather than men and woman we should be partners and teammates, and our military is getting closer to that every year," said Moore.