FORT BENNING, Ga. - Friday marked the 40th anniversary of the celebration of Women's Equality Day and the 91st anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The Equal Opportunity Office on post observed the day with a luncheon at the Benning Conference Center.

"This amendment guaranteed women the right to vote and gave them an equal voice in our nation's system of self-government," said Sgt. Lorie Engleking, mistress of ceremonies.

"Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle," she said. "Victory took decades of agitation and protest. The contributions of a countless number of women -- who planned, organized, lectured, petitioned, lobbied, paraded and broke new ground in every field imaginable -- resulted in a radical change to the Constitution."

Displays set up in the room highlighted many of these women: abolitionist Harriet Tubman, women's rights activist Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, co-founder of the first women's rights journal, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, writer of the Declaration of Sentiments.

"The accomplishments women have made required perseverance and strength on their part to endure the magnitude of sexist discrimination they suffered," Engleking said. "Women are a shining example of how persistence can pay off by paving the way for others. By observing this celebration, we ensure that the fight for equality continues."

Guest speaker for the luncheon, Lt. Col. Sherry-Lynn Womack cautioned women to choose their battles.

Men and women are different, she said, but both are special.

"I truly believe God … makes us all equal," said Womack, who was the first female senior physician's assistant in the XVIII Airborne Corps.

"It's about all Soldiers," she said. "The fact that I'm a woman doesn't make me a different Soldier, but the fact that I'm a Soldier sure makes me a different woman."

Womack stressed the importance of suffrage -- the right to vote for the management and control of the American government.

"How many of us actually vote?" she said. "I can sit here and tell you horror stories all day of what these women had to do to get the right to vote. You have that right. They fought for (it)."

Womack has served two combat tours during her 30 years of service. Her awards include the Bronze Star Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.