Celebrating every woman, everywhere

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Rhonda Miller
  • 8th Fighter Wing command chief
From history they march, working alongside men to build nations, homes and families, securing the future for generations to come. Sometimes these remarkable women were seen as out-front leaders, like Lucy Stone who was one of the cornerstones for women's suffrage in the United States.

Sometimes they were seen as filling a supporting role, like Eleanor Roosevelt, who in actuality showed great leadership through setting the example for human rights. Other times they were seen as followers, like Rosa Parks, an everyday seamstress who became the 'mother' of the civil rights movement.

What do all these women have in common? The women all have faith in themselves and others, passion for what they believe in, and affection for others.
These women solidified the foundation where we as women are today, and we are continuing to grow. As of January 2014, 20 percent of the United States Senate and 18 percent of the House of Representatives is female.

As of January 2013, women hold 4.4 percent of Fortune 500 Company CEO positions. The lists go on and on, demonstrating women are still leading, supporting and following while making great strides to shape the future for following generations.

It is not only society that is making these strides forward, but the military as well. While women make up an average of 15 percent of the military force, women are serving in more high-level leadership roles than ever before. And even though the ban on women serving in combat has been raised, the majority of women still serve in support functions.

However, just in the last ten years, both the Army and the Air Force have had a woman four-star general for the first time: an Air Force female major general was named the Joint Forces Air Component Commander for Operation Odyssey Dawn, making her the first woman to command a combat air campaign. Also, an Army E-4 was awarded the Silver Star, being only the second woman since World War II to receive this award for valor.

Many look to these great heroes and others highlighted during this month as role models, but we often miss the ones that are right beside us.

While not a glamorous world leader, a trend-setting visionary or a corporate powerhouse, my mother is so much more. Growing up in the Midwest region in the 1950s and 60s in a school system that did not take the time to educate kids, but passed them from grade to grade, she graduated high school with only a minimum ability to read.

She started her adult life as a single parent working in a factory, getting paid for the amount of product produced, not the number of hours worked. She worked in an area where there was no air conditioning during the hot summers with temperatures inside the factory commonly reaching the 120 degree mark.

Even in these conditions, she still managed to provide a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. Although we did not always see eye-to-eye, she still sacrificed everything so I could have some of the 'cool-kid' clothes, trips and weekend events.

During my adolescent years I never wanted to be anything like my mother. I was not going to be stuck working in a factory, scrimping to save money to put gas in a car and food on a table, or wait on a man to come and save me from that existence.

Once I joined the military, I was relieved to be free of that world. Later, I got married and had my son. Although I was not working in a factory, we were still scrimping to save money to provide those nice things for our son.

All those lessons she taught me came back to haunt me. I realized what she had always done was put family first. As a mother, I now understood why she did the things she did.

During the interim years, after leaving home, I did not speak to my mother very often. Then in 1998, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Needless to say, I was beside myself, thinking I was going to lose my mother, the one that I had neglected most of my life, but the one who taught me how to be a strong woman.

When I flew home to be with her for the surgery, she told me she was glad I was there, but this little thing was not going to keep her down because her family came first and they needed her.

After numerous treatments and a diagnosis of two other types of cancer, lymphoma and thyroid carcinoma, my mom came through with blazing colors and has been cancer free for nine years. I speak with her every day now, and I am still learning from her what it means to be a strong woman, rooted in her convictions, committed to family and with the courage to take on the world and conquer it.

That is the strong will, drive, passion, and love that every woman we highlight during this month of celebration has demonstrated in their lives. We do not need to look to the stars to find those that shine; all we need to do is look around us. People like Captain Hess, who has taken on the difficult job of building the most unique campaign for sexual assault prevention ever seen in the military. Or people like Tech. Sgt. Nakeisha Dawkins, 8th Medical Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of contract management, who stepped in to help women and men stay healthy through instructing Zumba. Or people like Staff Sgt. Tatiana Carbocci, 8th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, who employs our military working dogs to ensure the more than 5,000 personnel that live, work and visit Kunsan Air Base are safe.

Every woman possesses the traits these local heroines demonstrate daily. When you think of your female heroes, you are no different than they are. You are just as beautiful as the hottest models, just as smart as a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, just as driven as the top CEOs and just as talented as the highest paid actresses - you are someone's female hero every day.

So as you go through this month-long celebration of women of character, courage and commitment, look in the mirror and remember you are one of them, and then look around you and help someone else see that they are too.

Remember, we are all family - and family comes first. Taking care of each other is paramount. This month I celebrate my mother and all of you! Keep making history!