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Roughly 15% of today’s military are women, but military observers will tell you their influence is greater than their numbers suggest and it's growing. Women are the anchor in many of our military families, but they are also assuming important leadership positions in uniform. As part of a special salute, Veterans Advantage honors the following women who are making or have made major contributions to the nation they serve.
As profiled by Veterans Advantage in 2008, Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody became the first female four-star general, and carries herself with military style. “I never grew up in an environment where I even heard of the words ‘glass ceiling,’" General Ann Dunwoody said. “You could always be anything you wanted to be if you worked hard, and so I never felt constrained. I never felt like there were limitations on what I could do,” she added.
Dunwoody, who is currently Commanding General of the United States Army Materiel Command, was honored with USO’s Distinguished Service Award at its 2012 Woman of the Year program this May.
Tammy Duckworth was formerly the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
She lost the lower part of both legs from injuries sustained on November 12, 2004, when the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents.
L. Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, left, and retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught were inducted into the Army Women's Foundation hall of fame in Washington, D.C., March 17, 2010. (Click image to enlarge) (Photo by Mary Markos, Army News Service)
Duckworth received a Purple Heart, Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal. Duckworth, along with General Wilma Vaught, USAF (Ret.), President of Board of Directors of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Inc., were inducted into the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame in 2010,
Veterans Advantage recognized General Vaught as a HeroVet in 2009.
The Silver Star, the third highest combat decoration, was awarded to its first woman since World War II to Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, vehicle commander, 617th Military Police Company, Richmond, Ky. In March of (2005), fellow soldiers said she maneuvered her team around a kill zone and, and with squad leader Sgt. Timothy Nein, entered an insurgent trench where Hester killed three of them. After the 45 minute battle, 27 insurgents were killed without Hester and Nein losing a single soldier. “I’m honored to even be considered, much less awarded, the medal,” Hester told the American Forces Press Service. “It really doesn’t have anything to do with being a female. It’s about the duties I performed that day as a soldier.”
Since Hester, Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown was awarded the Silver Star in March 2008 for actions in the War in Afghanistan.
Col. Adele Hodges marked the beginning of a new era as Camp Lejeune's first female commander from 2006 - 2008. She also spearheaded a program leading the Marine community aboard base - Marines, sailors, family members and civilian Marines - to become a greater part of its Jacksonville-Onslow community through volunteering. Hodges has founded a program called "Operation Noble Heart" to encourage personnel on base to freely give their valuable off-duty hours to support the community through their time and talent.
Reflecting on her childhood memory of seeing her home burned down, she remarked how the community banded together to help her family. "So many people were there to help us and give us clothes and get us back on our feet," she says.
In this era of high technology driving the pace of our lives, it is time to recognize an unsung hero, thanks to the US Navy. Grace Murray Hopper, best known as “Amazing Grace,” had a prolific career. So much so that the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) was named for her, as was the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer. As founder of the COBOL programming language, a precursor to many of the software code approaches of today, her work is legendary among computer scientists and mathematicians.
Young Grace's diligence and hard work started to pay off when in 1928 at the age of 22 she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College. She then attended Yale University, where she received an MA degree in Mathematics and Physics in 1930 and a PhD in Mathematics in 1934. Hopper began teaching mathematics at Vassar in 1931 where her first year's salary was $800. She stayed there until she joined the United States Naval Reserve in December 1943, spurred by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Overcoming obstacles such as age (34) and weight (105 pounds), she gained entry into the U.S. Navy Reserve, and continued on to serve the Navy for another 43 years.
US AIR FORCE:
Eileen Collins was the First Female Space Shuttle Commander. Veterans Advantage profiled Commander Collins as a TopRank in 2003, as she returned the Space Shuttle program to flight after the earlier Columbia disaster. And exemplifying the true pioneer spirit of astronauts, she was always driven to be a force for change. "When the Vietnam War was over, and I was older, I started reading about the Vietnam War, and the pilots really became my heroes. As I got older, I started wondering why we didn’t have women in these fields," she said. And she has since answered those questions through her own example.
Air Force officer Kelly George helped glamorize military service, as she was the first Active Duty military member to compete for the Miss USA title in 2007.
"I'm the first active duty military member to compete in Miss USA, so that in itself will be really fun," she said at the time, crediting her military career to get her excel in a pageant competition. “Then, when I'm wearing my uniform, I'm representing not just myself, but the entire military and the ideals and the values that it represents too. One—I get to wear cuter shoes than the other, but still at the same time, it's that idea of representing something bigger than you."
In July 2003, Lt. Holly Harrison was the first female in the Coast Guard to receive the Bronze Star medal, in recognition of leading the 110-foot cutter Aquidneck (WPB-1309). While serving as Aquidneck’s captain, Holly Harrison’s cutter and dedicated crew conducted interdiction, search and rescue, escort and combat-related operations in the critical Northern Arabian Gulf soon after the start of the Iraq War. She was also the first woman to command a Coast Guard cutter in combat.