OK servicewomen remember past, celebrate future of women in U.S. military

OK servicewomen remember past, celebrate future of women in U.S. military

WASHINGTON D.C. (KSWO)- Nearly 40 Oklahoma Air and Army National Guard women gathered with hundreds of active-duty, retired and reserve service men and women from all branches of the military to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial over the weekend. The memorial serves as the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history.

"It just makes you reflect back on how much has changed in these 20 years, and the sacrifices that women are still making," said Col. Cynthia Tinkham, Oklahoma National Guard Director of Personnel, one of five attendees of the OKNG who were present at the dedication 20 years ago. "Also the pride and honor of what it is to serve."

The memorial serves as a ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery to honor the nearly 3 million women who have served or are serving in or with the U.S. Armed Forces since the American Revolution.

"We can never forget our history and those who have perished for the sake of us all," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Ryan, Oklahoma Air National Guard Assistant Adjutant General, who was asked to speak at the event in honor of the 167 women killed in action since the onset of the Global War on Terror. "Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance."

The long arching hall of memorabilia covers a full-range of women in service, from the women who disguised themselves as men to serve their country to the ones who openly served and died in the latest campaigns against terrorism.

"I've learned a lot about women's history and the impact it has on the Air Force and every other branch," said Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, an Airman from the Oklahoma Air National Guard who has only been to Washington D.C. once before.

Among those fallen was both the youngest and only woman in the Oklahoma National Guard to die in combat, 19-year-old Oklahoma Army National Guard Spc. Sarina Butcher who was killed in 2011 in Afghanistan and is honored within the memorial.

"These women represent a bridge to those that came before them," said Tinkham who spoke on behalf of Oklahoma's fallen women. "To those of the new and current generation and to those still to join, I implore you to keep telling their stories. Be proud of them. Honor them … and tell your own stories."

Story and Photos by Air Force Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps