The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity hosted this year's Women's History Month Observance at the Community Activities Center, Fort Detrick, Md. March 21.
The theme for the 2012 National Women's History Month was "Women's Education - Women's Empowerment." Speakers included Col. Russell E. Coleman, commander of the USAMMDA; Dr. Connie Devilbiss, adjunct professor of sociology at Gettysburg College; Jennifer Charlton-Shuldes, executive director of the Maryland/Pennsylvania program of Mission of Mercy; and Shannon Fowlkes, Fort Detrick federal women's program manager.
The crowd received a musical performance by Charlton-Shuldes which included her jazz compilation of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Smile, I Wish You Love, and Bye Bye Blackbird. During the performance, Charlton-Shuldes took time to thank the troops and civilians for their service, and she reminded women to "honor yourself as women, as you serve others and really start to look at what is important to you."
"As a father of two daughters, I tell them 'you can be anything you want, you can do anything you want'... It's not too far back we have to go [in history] when it wasn't the case," said Coleman. "Even though equal opportunity is currently not where we need it to be, we certainly have come a long way."
According to Devilbiss the theme "Women's Education-Women's Empowerment" is a connected idea, and education and empowerment are connected as directly as cause and effect.
Devilbiss began by telling the story of her time spent travelling with a small group to South Dakota, living and working among the Lakota people (Sioux Indians). To prepare for the trip, Devilbiss was instructed to read the book "The Four Fold Way," by Angeles Arrien describing the walking the paths of the warrior, teacher, healer, and visionary.
Devilbiss continued by explaining that throughout history, women have traditionally been seen as the healers and/or teachers, "but I suggest to you..., that women can also often be exceptional warriors and visionaries".
"Each part of the whole [the four paths/spokes/chambers] brings a gift", said Devilbiss.
She also said the gift of the visionary is insight and wisdom, the gift of the healer is restoration, the gift of the teacher is knowledge, and the gift of the warrior is peace.
"I do indeed wish for each of you today and in the days to come - restoration, knowledge, insight and peace", concluded Devilbiss.
Fowlkes, followed Devilbiss by reading the Proclamation written by President Barack Obama. Fowlkes works closely with the Fort Detrick Equal Employment Opportunity Office with affirmative action planning to help eliminate the under-representation of women in all occupations groups and at all levels of employment.
Fowlkes read, "During Women's History Month, we recall that the pioneering legacy of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers is revealed not only in our museums and history books, but also in the fierce determination and limitless potential of our daughters and granddaughters. As we make headway on the crucial issues of our time, let the courageous vision championed by women of past generations inspire us to defend the dreams and opportunities of those to come," an excerpt of the Proclamation written by President Obama.
A letter written by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski was also read. It focused on the principles she has learned along the way, such as:
* "Nobody, but nobody does it alone
* There are always teachers ... be sure to look for them
* Roadblocks are just new geo-positioning systems to put you on a new road, which frequently, turns out to be the right road
* Everyone faces an incredible hardship at some point, don't let it deter you
* Act to be of service, join with others to success. ... Know that each and every one of us can make a difference, but together, we can make change"
On March 17, Mikulski had become the longest serving woman in U.S. Congress history.
The observance was a time to acknowledge that women have not just been in history, but have also made it.