By Sgt. Jennifer C. Johnson JFHQ-NCR/MDW Public AffairsMarch 8, 2013
ARLINGTON, Va. (March 8, 2013) -- Chaplains and guests from around the National Capital Region gathered to celebrate 40 years of women in the military chaplaincy during a ceremony opening a new exhibit, themed "Celebrating 40 Years of Women Chaplains: A Courageous Journey of Faith and Service" at the Military Service For America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., March 4.
According to ceremony organizer Col. Cherri S. Wheeler, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and the U.S. Air Forces Africa Command Chaplain, for five decades, in peace and wartime contingencies, women chaplains have ministered to Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen.
Women chaplains have served at all levels of leadership in their respective services. Both the Air Force and Navy Chaplain Corps have had women reach the flag officer ranks.
In 1973, Dianna P. Bell was commissioned into the Navy as the first woman military chaplain.
"I may be the first to serve in this role, but I'm happy that I wasn't the last, "said Rev. Dianna P. Bell. "We aren't finished and have many more challenges ahead of us. It's the humanizing steps we take toward the future."
"This event was the first time we ever celebrated female chaplains from all services upon when they first entered the Armed Forces," said Lt. Col. Julie M. Rowan, Joint Force Headquarters -- National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington Deputy Command Chaplain. "It showed how women chaplains have contributed in the last 40 years and their hope for the future of the Chaplain Corps."
Also in attendance were the military service Chiefs of Chaplains from the Air Force, Army and Navy, who spoke about the accomplishments of women in the military chaplaincies.
Wheeler stated the exhibit includes service specific pictorial montages of the 40-year ministry of women chaplains. Each service has a display cabinet that present artifacts of their women chaplains.
The uniform display features the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard chaplain uniforms which also depict the four major faith groups that endorse women chaplains (Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist). The exhibit celebrates diversity in the DOD Chaplain Corps.
"We need to stick together for the future," said Bell. "None of us can do this alone."