"I think of all the years we served and all the roles we played," said retired Army Lt. Col. Julie Jefferson, who called the dedication ceremony 15 years ago "probably the greatest day of my life" aside from her wedding day and the days her children were born.
"There was not always the same recognition that women played in the military," Jefferson said.
Louise Whalon, who joined the Army Nurse Corps within days of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and retired after 25 years, said she felt that "it was my duty to go because I thought maybe all the Army nurses were old and they needed some young women to help. That's the story I told my mother and dad."
Air Force Col. Deanna Violette said she knew at age 10 that she wanted to be a military pilot, and she became one. When she and her husband decided to start a family, she broke another barrier: "Showing up pregnant at the door of an Army brigade commander and telling him I was his new Air Force liaison was challenging for both of us," she said.
"[The memorial] recognizes the service of women who have served everywhere, in war and peace," including in drug interdictions and refugee rescue operations, said Jessica L. Wright, assistant defense secretary for Reserve Affairs and an Army National Guard veteran. "Women have served every time our nation has called."