As the former commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 20th Engineer Brigade and as a former history instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Brig. Gen. Diana Holland knows something about history.
Serving as guest speaker at Team Bragg Women’s Equality Day, Friday at Clark Auditorium, Holland said that women’s struggle to earn the right to vote was not an easy one and was one of sacrifice. The observance, themed “Celebrating Women’s Right to Vote,” was hosted by the Equal Opportunity Office of the XVIII Airborne Corps and by the 20th Engineer Brigade.
Women earned voting rights with ratification of the 19th amendment to the Constitution in 1920.
Holland offered a three-prong approach: recognize that the suffrage struggle was one of personal courage and selfless service; required the positive role men played; and remain grateful for predecessors who helped guarantee the freedoms that are enjoyed today.
Holland, who at the age of six told her father that she wanted to be a Soldier, said she enjoys a 27-year military career free of obstacles that hindered those who came before her. There were, for instance, women born too early or too late to attend West Point or to serve in infantry, she explained.
“I’ve always felt included, welcome, and part of the team …,” said Holland. “There was nothing of substance that stood in my way.”
For some attendees, the message seemed relevant.
“It’s important to recognize equality across the board, but for women’s equality, (it’s important) to recognize the history of women as contributors to the military since the beginning of time,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sean Velasco, a Fort Bragg Soldier.
Women’s equality means that women should be treated the same as men and should not be seen differently, said Spc. Michael Garcia, 20th Eng. Bde., who sang the National Anthem at the observance and attended it with his wife, Samantha and children; Ian, 2 and Lucianna, 7 weeks old.
The Army makes no distinction because of race or gender, said Col. Marc Hoffmeister, commander, 20th Eng. Bde.
“Our progress for women’s equality has extended much further than the right to vote,” he said.
It’s a distinction that Lt. Kamaren Braxton, who is currently training for U.S. Army Ranger School, seems to appreciate.
“It’s been through all the efforts of women and men in the Army to allow opportunities like this to open to us,” said Braxton, a Soldier assigned to the 27th Engineer Battalion.
Other Women’s Equality Day activities included a dance presentation by Fayetteville State University dancers, Krystal Kelley and Anthony Velazquez, as well as a 5K run/walk, and a leadership professional development forum facilitated by Retired Col. Patricia Collins, a 24-year Army veteran and a triathlon team member of the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Paralympics. She currently serves as a principal for the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute.
In 1971, Congress designated Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day.