FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas “â€ The topic of women came up in my office the other day. We were trying to figure out the best way to highlight Women’s History Month in the post newspaper, and we decided to ask a few outstanding women, “If you could be any other woman, who would you be and why?”
We received some thought-provoking responses. Acting Army Surgeon General Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock said she would choose Abigail Adams, because she was “an original thinker” who advised against the discrimination of women. Army Col. Patricia Hastings, director, Department of Combat Medic Training, said she would pick Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female physician to graduate with a degree in the United States.
Although they emulate others, Pollock and Hastings are inspirations in their own right. Pollock is the first woman to hold the position of Army surgeon general, and Hastings runs the department that trains the Army medics who have boosted the survival rate out in the field to more than 90 percent.
Pollock and Hastings are just two of the countless notable women who have helped shape American history. As soldiers, they continue a tradition started when women first began to serve in the Army in 1775. They join the ranks of women like Army Brig. Gen. Coral Pietsch, the first woman general officer in the Judge Advocate General Corps, and Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the first woman to achieve three-star rank.
And, more recently, Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester helped her squad repel nearly 30 insurgents during an ambush of her convoy in Iraq. Hester became the first woman since World War I to earn the Silver Star Medal for exceptional valor.
History books and Web pages are filled with stories of these well-known and celebrated women. Their achievements and valor help shape our society and the young women who turn to them for inspiration.
With such high-profile achievements, however, it’s too easy to overlook the countless other women whose walls may be less packed with accolades and achievements, but are a source of inspiration nonetheless. You may have seen one today at the desk next to you, in the hall or talked to one on the phone. They are women who do their job with excellence every day, not because they are paid a movie star’s salary, but because of their inner drive and work ethic. Women like my friend Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Phillips, who is facing her second tour to Iraq in two years. She is handling the looming deployment with a grace and courage that I don’t believe I’d have in the same circumstance.
Women who stand by their servicemembers, wounds and all, as they undergo a long, painful rehabilitation process. And any woman “â€ whether a wife, mother, sister or grandmother “â€ who receives word that her loved one was killed while defending our nation’s freedom and still manages to carry on.
I saw one of these heroes on a news report. Renee Ziegel had only dated Marine Cpl. Ty Ziegel for about three months before he was deployed to Iraq. He was severely injured when a suicide bomber detonated a car full of explosives. Ziegel was burned on his face and arms, and his left hand and three fingers on his right hand were amputated. But Renee didn’t see the wounds; she only saw him. She stood by him for more than two years of surgery and rehabilitation, and they were married last October.
“If you love somebody, you’re going to do what you have to do, no matter what,” said Renee in a First Coast News article
Their stories, ones of fortitude and courage, are an inspiration to me. As a journalist, I’ve been to the Fisher Houses, medical and rehabilitation centers and have witnessed that courage firsthand. And I always ask myself if I would have the same courage faced with the same circumstances. I hope I don’t have to find out, but if I do, I know there are women out there that I could turn to for my inspiration.
Take time during Women’s History Month, and every other month, to thank an unsung hero. Thank a woman who inspires you, whether she is your mother, sister, friend or co-worker. Perhaps someone also will stop and thank you.
(This commentary was originally printed March 28, 2007 when Elaine Wilson was assigned to Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office, where she was editor of the Fort Sam Houston News Leader.)Ã‚Â