FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Soldiers, civilians and Family Members celebrated the achievements and service of women during the Women's Equality Day luncheon Friday at Fort Drum.

Every year, the U.S. celebrates Women's Equality Day on Aug. 26. The observance was established more than 40 years ago to not only recognize women's right to vote, which went into effect on Aug. 26, 1920, but also to promote awareness and equal opportunities for women.

"The 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution tore down the last formal barrier to women's enfranchisement in our nation and empowered America's women to have their voices heard in the halls of power," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Fishack, 10th Mountain Division (LI) Equal Opportunity program manager. "This amendment became law after decades of work by committed trailblazers who fought to extend the right to vote to women across America.

"For the women who fought for this right, voting was not the end of this journey for equality, but the beginning of a new era," he continued. "These brave and tenacious women challenged our nation to live up to its founding principles. Their legacy inspires us to reach even higher in our pursuit of liberty and equality for all."

Before the 19th Amendment was ratified to allow women to vote, they had been serving alongside men, Fishack noted.

For years before women could vote, they were leading movements, excelling in academics and contributing to reforms in government.

"Legions of brave women wrote and lectured for change," he explained. "They let their feet speak when their voices were not enough -- protesting and marching for their right to vote in the face of heckling, (imprisonment) and abuse."

Their efforts led to progress. Since then, millions of women have used "the power of the ballot to help shape our country," Fishack said.

"Today, our nation's daughters reap the benefits of these courageous pioneers while paving the way for generations to come; but, work still remains," he said, adding that women still face inequality in the workplace, and health and family needs.

"On the 92nd anniversary of this landmark in civil rights, we continue to uphold the foundation of American principles that we are all equal and that each of us deserves to pursue our dreams," Fishack continued. "We honor the heroes who gave of themselves to advance the causes of justice, opportunity and prosperity. We look forward to a bright future for our nation's daughters."

Americans are lucky to be able to celebrate diversity, whether it is recognizing women or the diverse heritages that make up the U.S., according to Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander.

"The thing that makes (our country) so unique is the entire concept of every man and every woman -- regardless of race, color, creed, national origin or sexual orientation -- everybody in the eyes of the law is equal," he said

The ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 was not the end of the struggle, Milley added.
"The struggle continues," he said.

Mary Parry, a longtime USO volunteer and supporter of Fort Drum, was guest speaker at the event.

"We have to honor those women who dedicated their lives to this great cause (of 'One Woman, One Vote.') It took (over) 75 years for suffragettes to achieve this victory," she said.

Many of the pioneers, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, who fought for women's right to vote, didn't live to see it come to reality, Parry added. Women continue to occupy jobs that were once only held by men, especially in decision-making bodies.

"We will never give up, and we will succeed. We are warriors," she said. "I vote, and I hope all of you vote. If you ladies don't vote, we'll never get what we want."