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Rep. Julia Brownley (left) converses with Army Sgt. Maj. Christal Rheams before the 21st Annual Women in the Military Wreath-laying Ceremony held in Arlington May 17. Rheams, a member of The U.S. Army Band’s “Pershing’s Own” vocal group, Downrange, was honored during the ceremony.

A bipartisan ceremony sponsored by the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues honored women in the military—past and present—May 17 at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington.

The ceremony also recognized five current military women including The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” Sgt. Maj. Christal Rheams.

“I am overwhelmed—very humbled,” Rheams said of the honor. “It (the ceremony) wasn’t about me in my eyes. It was more about the women (who) have gone before and will come after.”

Rheams has been with The United States Army Band since 1998. She currently is a vocalist with the band’s popular music group Downrange.

The band’s sergeant major was introduced at the ceremony by Rep. Julia Brownley of California, who offered parts of Rheams’ biography to the audience.

“She works with military children and wounded warriors to spread the joy and the healing power of music,” Brownley said. “Not only is Sgt. Maj. Rheams a singer and a Soldier, she is also a trailblazer serving as only the third African-American woman to achieve the rank of sergeant major in the Army band’s almost 100-year history.

“Sgt. Maj. Rheams, it is clear your vocal talents and musical diplomacy play an essential role in promoting our nation’s interests both at home and abroad. Your dedication to your fellow service members and ability to use music to bridge gaps and create unity is truly inspiring.”

The other service members honored included Marine Master Sgt. Meghann Viggiani, Navy Chief Petty Officer Kristina Koch, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Arnold, and Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Brynn Simonetti.

Former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi also saluted America’s women in uniform for their patriotism and courage in defending the nation.

“There is no better credential that you can have than to say I’m a woman veteran,” Pelosi said.

The ceremony was the 21st annual wreath laying at the Women’s Memorial. Every year, the memorial pays respects to all fallen servicewomen.

Pentagram Staff Writer Jim Dresbach can be reached at jdresbach@dcmilitary.com.