WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The United States Navy Memorial hosted the official kick-off of the Year of Military Women during a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 11.
This is the first time the Navy Memorial will be honoring not only Navy women, but also the women who have, and still serve in the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Chief of Naval Personnel, Adm. Scott Van Buskirk was the guest speaker at the event, and said he was honored to attend the ceremony, because he knows how essential women's leadership and contributions have been to the Navy and the nation.
"I know that first-hand, and I see that each and every day when I have the opportunity in my job to go out and meet the men and women who serve in our Navy and also in our Marine Corps," said Van Buskirk.
Senior leaders from each of the services, and members of congress attended the event and were able to get the first look at the collection of original uniforms worn by pioneering World War I Yeoman (F) and female Marines. Among the most significant is a uniform worn by Capt. Mildred McAfee, the first director of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES, who commanded 82,000 women during World War II.
The Executive Vice President of the Navy Memorial, Cindy McCalip said the memorial wanted to include women of all branches of service to highlight the common bond between all military women.
"Women tend to support other women whether it be from one service or another service," said McCalip, "so it's important that we keep that connection going and we didn't want to alienate any women in the military, so we're trying to be very inclusive of all the services."
The exhibit highlights many of the women who made military history through their leadership and determination.
"In our military, we judge leadership abilities by the capacity to get the job done well," said Buskirk. "Man, woman, people of color, white, Hispanic: that doesn't matter. What matters is that you can meet the mission and you can get the job done. And as demonstrated day in and day out, our women aren't just meeting that mission, they're leading the way, going above and beyond."
Fleet Master Chief April Beldo said that events like Year of Military Women allow for the opportunity to recognize the past contributions of women to the armed forces.
"If it wasn't for those women who went before me, I would not be standing here today," said Beldo. "This allows me to give honor and hommage to the hard work that they did while they were serving."
Celebrations of the Year of Military Women will continue throughout the year and will include book signings, golf tournaments and symposiums.
For more information visit www.navymemorial.org, or www.facebook.com/YearofMilitaryWomen.