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BAMC Women's History Month honors women past and present

Three military personnel, wearing masks, standing on a stage and holding an award Brooke Army Medical Center Commanding General, Army Brig. Gen. Shan Bagby (left), and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Thurman Reynolds (right), present Lt. Col. Alison Murray, chief medical information officer, a certificate of appreciation for being the guest speaker during BAMC’s Virtual Women’s History Month Observation, March 23, 2021. BAMC broadcasted the event on Facebook live in order to social distance during the current COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Robert Whetstone, Brooke Army Medical Center.)

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Brooke Army Medical Center, located aboard Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas, held a virtual Women’s History Month commemoration March 23 to honor women from the past and the present.

This year’s theme, “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced,” honored the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.

Army Brig. Gen. Shan Bagby, BAMC commanding general, opened the event by highlighting the importance of women in the United States military.

“Women will always play a critical role within our military,” the general said. “The strength of our military and our nation comes from its diversity. Developing and maintaining qualified and demographically diverse leadership is critical for mission effectiveness.”

Today there are more than 230,000 women on active duty in the United States military, and 255,000 government civilians working within the Department of Defense.

The general talked about the significant roles women have taking within the military since the Revolutionary War.

“We know from history and experience that the contributions and achievements of women make our military stronger,” Bagby said. “Each day, there are countless examples of courageous and selfless service by military and civilian women throughout our ranks and within the halls of BAMC.

“I am overwhelmed by all of the women throughout history, or for the purposes of this conversation ‘HER-story’ who continue to serve as outstanding examples for us to follow,” said the event’s guest speaker Army Lt. Col. Alison Murray, BAMC chief medical information officer. Murray, has 18 years of military service, including five at BAMC; and currently serves as a nurse and information management officer.

Murray began by reflected on the women like Alice Paul, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, Anna Howard Shaw, Helen Keller and other suffragists who played significant roles in women obtaining the right to vote.

“Please keep in mind that even though the purpose was to fight for the right to vote, there were other participants that were fighting for a whole lot more,” she said, also mentioning the trailblazing efforts of 22 African-American women from Howard University who also participated in the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C. as their first act of public service. 

Murray encouraged everyone to think about how long it took to achieve voting right for everyone, which wasn’t until the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

“We have friends, family, staff members and patients old enough to remember when not everyone had a right that is essential to our standing as a functional democracy,” Murray said. “Needless to say, we are better for the efforts of all of these brave women who refused to remain silent on our nation’s path towards a more perfect union.”

Murray also highlighted the female leaders at BAMC, including Air Force Col. Heather Yun, deputy commander for medical services; Army Lt. Col. Jody Brown, deputy commander for inpatient services, and several others.

“Clearly, the women of the Armed Forces and Brooke Army Medical Center are not staying silent,” Murray said. “The late, great Shirley Chisholm once said ‘if they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’ The women of Brooke Army Medical Center, don’t just bring chairs, they bring the entire table.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to all of those whom I have mentioned, in addition to the countless others that I did not,” she concluded. “We are better for their leadership and for their voices.” It is my hope that we inspire those currently in our ranks and those that are to come.  We will not be silenced and most importantly, we remain steadfast in our commitment to demanding better for all people.”

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