Paying tribute to women throughout history

A widow with two sons who served during World War II, Staff Sgt. Esther Blake is known as the "first woman of the Air Force." She paved the way for female enlistees and showed that patriotism is not defined by one's gender. (Photo courtesy Air Force Heritage Research Institute)

A widow with two sons who served during World War II, Staff Sgt. Esther Blake is known as the "first woman of the Air Force." She paved the way for female enlistees and showed that patriotism is not defined by one's gender. (Photo courtesy Air Force Heritage Research Institute)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The wing has the privilege to highlight special observances on a monthly basis. We recently highlighted African American History Month and in the coming months will highlight Asian-Pacific American Heritage month. In total there are nine mandated special observances.

This month the special observance is women's history. I am sure each of us can think back over our personal lives and Air Force careers and think of those women who have impacted our lives. There are many other women who are noted in our history books. For example, any enlisted member who has studied their professional development guide knows of Ester Blake who was the "first woman in the Air Force." She enlisted on the first minute of the first hour of the first day regular Air Force duty was authorized for women, July 8, 1948.

Another first was Dr. Sally Ride who was the first American woman to fly in space with Challenger mission STS-7. Backing up in history a bit we have Rosa Parks whom our U.S. Congress called "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement."

Another example is Helen Adams Keller, who was the first deafblind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. She did not allow her challenges to hold her back from becoming a great author, lecturer and a staunch supporter of women's suffrage.

A final example is that of Amelia Earhart, who was known as "Lady Lindy." While she became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot's license, among her most notable accomplishments was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and then the first person to fly over both the Atlantic and Pacific. She was the perfect example of courage, endurance and perseverance.

There are two other special women I would like to highlight. First is my mother. She may not have had much to do with shaping history, but she had everything to do with shaping our family and for that I am forever grateful. She did a phenomenal job of raising four children - one of which was a handful (must have been my older sister). She taught us to respect others. Sounds very familiar to one of the wing priorities of promoting a "culture of dignity and respect for all." She also taught us to take care of each other as a family and to take care of our neighbors - sounds like being a good wingman. Finally, she along with my dad taught us the value of working hard, a trait which can serve us all well. Again, you will not see my mother's name in the history books, but she will be a forever legacy to our family.

Let me close out this commentary by paying a tribute and honoring another very special woman in my life - my wife. She is my friend, my best buddy and my wingman. Yes, I know some of you tough guys are saying "get a grip," but for the past 35 years she has been my strength, my sounding board and a guide from which she has never faltered and surely has not failed. Sounds a little like the words from our Airmen's Creed. She lives the core value of service before self and I know that regardless of the situation she would be by my side. I am forever grateful to her and I am also grateful to the other women throughout our history who have made our country great. The challenge for all of us is to not focus on these exceptional women once a month but to honor them every day of the year.