HERstory

Staying true to our mission, our signature program HERstory explores the lived experiences of women veterans throughout American history. Each month, MWM Phyllis Wilson hosts a new episode with a new story.

Follow our YouTube channel to see the latest episode. Check our previous programs below. You can also see all of our programming on the Programs Calendar.

The Military Women’s Memorial is the nation’s historical repository documenting all military women’s service through both our interactive online registration and our world class collection. HERstory Spotlight takes a short look at some of those stories.

Follow our YouTube channel to see the latest episode. Check our previous programs below.

Do you know someone?

Do you know someone with a story to be told? Do you want to share your story? Nominate a servicewoman to participate in our HERstory series using the form.

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SGM Danyell Walters

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we spoke with SGM Danyell Walters. In January 1997, she became the first ever Black woman, and only the second woman, to be a tomb guard. Walters sat down with our Community Engagement Manager Lachrisha Parker to reflect on her time as a tomb guard and her career.

Marilla Cushman, LTC, USA Ret.

Phyllis sits down with our very own Marilla Cushman, Senior Advisor to the President. Marilla shares her story of her years of service in the Army, her part in the popular “Be All You Can Be” advertising campaign and how Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught recruited her to work at the Military Women’s Memorial. Phyllis and Marilla also discuss our 24 years of telling HERstory.

Summer With The Arts

As part of our Summer With The Arts series, this month’s HERstory highlights two women, both featured in the current exhibit created in partnership with UnitingUS. Military Women’s Memorial Collections Manager Amy Poe sits down with Gail Belmont and April Goodwin-Gill. Gail and April discuss how their military service played a central role in shaping who they are and how it has influenced their work as artists. Gail and April have found healing and comfort in their art and use it to inspire other veterans, service members, and their communities. Listen to the powerful stories of these veteran artists and learn about the meaning and creative process behind their art.

April Goodwin-Gill is an Army veteran who worked as an Ammunition Weapons Specialist in the 1980s. April served in Colorado, Italy, Texas and Alabama. She has turned to art as a therapeutic way to express herself.

Gail Belmont is a former WAC (Women’s Army Corp) who played trumpet in the WAC band during the Vietnam War. She served both on active duty and in the reserves in the late 60s and 70s, and then spent 25 years working as an Army civilian for the Department of Defense as a data administrator. In her role in the WAC band, she performed Taps at military funerals which was an emotionally taxing responsibility. In turn, she turned to quilting as a form of art therapy to help her manager her PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

Summer With The Arts was created in partnership with UnitingUS and the presenting sponsor is OptumServe.

Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, USAF (Ret.)

MWM President Phyllis Wilson sits down with Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, USAF (Ret.). Not only did Helms serve in the U.S. Air Force, but she was also a NASA astronaut. She has been to space five times for a total of 211 days. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1980 and became a weapons separation engineer and test pilot before joining NASA. She returned to the Air Force in 2002 to work at the HQ USAF Space Command. Helms also served as the 45th Space Wing Commander and was responsible for processing and launching government and commercial satellites. While with NASA, she flew aboard the Space Shuttles Endeavor, Discovery, Columbia and Atlantis, and served aboard the International Space Station. She held the world record for longest space walk at 8 hours and 56 minutes.

Helms graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1980, and was in the first class to admit women into the cadet corps. She served as an F-15 and F-16 weapons separation engineer, and as an assistant professor in the Department of Aeronautics of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Helms was then selected to attend the USAF Test Pilot School Flight Test Engineer Course. Upon graduation as a Distinguished Graduate, she served as project officer on the CF-18 as an exchange officer with the Canadian Air Force at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment, Cold Lake, Alberta.

In January 1990, then-Major Helms became a NASA astronaut and in 1993, became the first U.S. military woman in space. She flew on five human spaceflight missions, including a tour as a member of the International Space Station Expedition 2 crew. Helms logged 211 days in space and accomplished a spacewalk of eight hours, 56 minutes, a world record that stands today.

After 12 years at NASA, Helms transferred to Air Force Space Command. She commanded the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral, and held positions at Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Air Education and Training Command, and U.S. Strategic Command. Upon promotion to Lieutenant General, she commanded the 14th Air Force (Air Force Space Command) and the Joint Functional Component Command for Space in a dual-hat role. Lt. Gen. Helms retired from military service in 2014.

Helms currently serves as a member of the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, and was appointed by President Obama to the Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson International Center (2014-2016). She is also a board member of the Association of Space Explorers, and has established her own consulting company, Orbital Visions, LLC, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Among Helms’ many awards are the Gen. James V. Hartinger Award, Thomas D. White Space Award for Outstanding Contributions to Space, Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award, Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and induction into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Helms earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1980, and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University in 1985. She completed the Air Force Flight Test Engineer course at USAF Test Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base in 1988, and the Senior Executive Course, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, in 2005.

9.11 | We will NEVER forget

Staying true to our mission, our signature program HERstory explores the lived experiences of women veterans throughout American history.

September 11, 2001– a day we will never forget. To mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, MWM President Phyllis Wilson sat down with women and asked them to share their 9/11 HERstories, their “where were you when” moments.

Melissa A. Washington

April 2021

Melissa A. Washington sits down with MWM President Phyllis Wilson to discuss her service in the United States Navy, her decision to leave the military, the challenges of balancing a civilian career and being a military spouse and the importance of community.

Award-winning advocate, speaker, author, entrepreneur, CEO, and proud Navy veteran Melissa A. Washington wears many hats. Yet woven throughout her diverse pursuits is a mission of service—and a passion to empower her fellow women. The founder and CEO of Women Veterans Alliance—a national organization that seeks to empower and positively impact the lives of women veterans. She also oversees WVA’s non-profit division, Women Veterans Giving.

Melissa serves as an advisor to the American Veteran Organization of Women’s AVOW Magazine. An in-demand speaker and author, who has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show, SiriusXM, ABC, NBC, and Fox, among others, Melissa was featured in VAntage Point—the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ official blog. She has also been recognized by a variety of organizations, including the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Center for Women Veterans, who honored her with the 2019 Trailblazer Award.

Dr. Mylène Huynh

May 2021

Dr. Mylène Huynh sits down with MWM President Phyllis Wilson to discuss her service in the United States Air Force, how her childhood in Vietnam during the war impacted her choice to join the Air Force, and how her early exposure to her parent’s medical background influenced her current medical practice.

Dr. Mylène (“Mee-lenn”) Huynh (“Winn”) is board certified in Family Practice and Preventive Medicine with over 20 years experience in integrative health and medical acupuncture. Dr. Huynh’s passion is health and healing with a life mission to promote healthier communities. She is a functional medicine practitioner with special interest and training in clinical nutrition, lifestyle medicine, mindfulness meditation and evidence-based approaches to reversing chronic diseases.

Dr. Huynh obtained both her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  She completed a 21-year US Air Force career as a flight surgeon, family medicine academic faculty, clinic director, consultant to the USAF Surgeon General on preventive medicine and global health.  In addition to TruPoint Health, she serves as an integrative health physician at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  Dr. Huynh holds appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD.

Presenting Sponsor for The Color of Freedom: Honoring the Diversity of America’s Servicewomen is Comcast NBCUniversal, with additional support from GEICO MilitaryNorthrop GrummanTito’s Handmade Vodka and Cerner Corporation.

LTG (Ret) Patricia Horoho

June 2021

LTG (Retired) Patricia Horoho sits down with MWM President Phyllis Wilson to discuss her service in the United States Army and her time as the 43rd U.S.Army Surgeon General. She will also talk about the upcoming Women Veteran appreSHEation Day on June 12.

LTG Patricia (Patty) D. Horoho, Retired, is the Chief Executive Officer of OptumServe, the end-to-end federal business of Optum and UnitedHealth Group. Since forming OptumServe in 2017, Patty has grown the business by nearly 90%, resulting in an annual growth rate of 25%. This growth includes securing the $55 billion Veterans Affairs Community Care Network Third Party Administrator contract. Patty is a values-based servant leader whose life’s calling is to improve the U.S. health care system, focused in the areas of health care delivery and health disparities.

Under Patty’s leadership, OptumServe emerged as a nationally recognized thought leader for its expertise in the management of COVID-19 testing; and now serves as the operational arm for UnitedHealth Group’s philanthropic support to citizens living in vulnerable communities.

In addition to its COVID-19 services, OptumServe continues to grow and expand its support of technology, health services, data analytics and consulting initiatives for customers that include the Defense Health Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies.

Patty’s distinguished professional career includes 33 years with the U.S. Army, retiring as a Lieutenant General, the 43rd Army Surgeon General and Commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command. She made history being the first woman, first nurse and non-physician to hold these posts. In these roles, Patty led the third largest health care system in the world, a global logistics, research and care network across five continents, with a multibillion-dollar budget and staff of more than 156,000. An expert in health care transformation, Patty moved the entire Army Medicine organization from a disease model of care to a system for health. She implemented groundbreaking and long-lasting initiatives around behavioral health, while improving health care considerations and force protection measures for military women. Patty has been humbled to serve and lead during pivotal moments in Army Medicine and in defense of the nation, including serving in the emergency room during the Green Ramp Disaster in 1994; standing up triage at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001; transforming care at the Walter Reed Health Care System from 2007 to 2008; and serving as the Special Assistant to the Commander, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, Afghanistan.

Prior to joining Optum, Patty led Accenture’s military health business as the client account lead and managing director for military health.

Currently, Patty holds positions on the UnitedHealth Group Equity Advancement Board, Schultz Family Foundation Board of Trustees, University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees and Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Home Base Honorary Board and Leadership Council, CLF Veterans Advisory Board, and CADA. Patty is also a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, Women of Impact and a member of the  international Women’s Forum.

Patty is a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her Master of Science degree as a clinical trauma nurse specialist from the University of Pittsburgh. Patty has served as a Distinguished Professor at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences Graduate School of Nursing, and holds a Master of Science degree in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Patty holds five honorary doctorates and has received numerous recognitions from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina, including a distinguished alumni and fellow award and a scholarship in her name.

Patty’s military awards and citations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, France’s National Order of the Legion of Honour Chevalier (Knight), Japan’s Defense Cooperation Award Second Class, and the President’s Lifetime Achievement award.

Shannon Huffman Polson

January 2021

Shannon Huffman Polson sits down with Military Women’s Memorial President, Phyllis Wilson, to discuss her experience as a woman in the Military.

At graduation from Duke University, Shannon was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in Army Aviation where she became one of the first women to fly Apache helicopters, serving on three continents and leading two flight platoons and a line company. Following her service in the Army, Shannon joined the corporate world.

Today, she is the founder of The Grit Institute and author of the new book The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World where she tells the tales of trailblazing women who learned to lead at the highest levels and how they overcame adversity and learned from their experiences.

Get the book here.

Denise Rucker Krepp

February 2021

Denise discusses her time in the military as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Denise works for the Naval History and Heritage Command and is also a locally elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner representing the Hill East community in Washington, D.C. She began her career as an active-duty Coast Guard officer. After September 11, 2001, she helped create the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. She also served as Senior Counsel on the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. During President Obama’s first term, she was the Maritime Administration Chief Counsel and Special Counsel to the U.S. Department of Transportation General Counsel. Krepp’s family has long served in the military, including her husband, mother, father, uncles, grandfather, great uncles, and the generations before them. Denise has also done extensive research on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and shares her insights and stories in this wide-ranging discussion. This conversation is part of a year-long partnership with the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tomb. 

Dr. Betty Moseley Brown

March 2021

Dr. Betty Moseley Brown sits down with MWM President Phyllis Wilson to discuss her service in the United States Marines as well as her upcoming book Leadership Lessons: Personal Reflections From a Woman Marine.

In May 2018, Dr. Betty Moseley Brown joined the Veterans Experience Office (VEO) at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) whose mission is to enable VA to be the leading customer service organization in government.  Dr. Moseley Brown is currently the Designated Federal Official for the Veterans’ Family, Caregiver and Survivor Federal Advisory Committee.  Prior to this position, she was the Associate Director, Center for Women Veterans since November 2004. Dr. Moseley Brown’s passion for Veterans began during her United States Marine Corps service from 1978 – 1992.  Her VA career, spanning decades, began in the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) in San Diego.  She served in various positions, to include a Veterans Benefits Counselor, management analyst in Compensation and Pension Service, and later working for the Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Policy and Program Management in Washington, DC. Dr. Moseley Brown earned a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Sarasota.  She is an avid Toastmaster, achieving the highest level in public speaking of Distinguished Toastmaster in January 2011.  Dr. Moseley Brown is a 2004 Leadership VA (LVA) alumnus and 2009 graduate of the Federal Executive Institute.  From September 2012 – September 2018, she served as the 19th National President of the Women Marines Association (a non-profit charitable organization comprised of women who have served or are serving honorably in the United States Marine Corps regular or reserve components and Navy women meeting the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) designation and have earned the Warfare Device/Service Ribbon with the Marine Corps device. In September 2016, Dr. Moseley Brown was awarded the Dickey Chapelle Award; honoring the memory of the late Dickey Chapelle, an American foreign correspondent who first covered Marines in combat at the Battle of Iwo Jima and was killed while on patrol with a Marine Corps infantry unit engaged in combat operations against enemy forces during the Vietnam War.  The award was established by the Marine Corps League to extend recognition to a woman who has contributed substantially to the morale, welfare and well-being of the officers and men and women of the United States Marine Corps.

Presenting Sponsor for The Color of Freedom: Honoring the Diversity of America’s Servicewomen is Comcast NBCUniversal, with additional support from GEICO MilitaryNorthrop GrummanTito’s Handmade Vodka and Cerner Corporation.

World War I Donuts

Join us as we recreate a World War I donut recipe used by Ethel Ash. Ash volunteered with the YMCA, a uniformed organization that worked alongside the military to boost morale. She served in France where she made hundreds of donuts a day for soldiers, with limited ingredients available to her. The Spotlight Series takes a look at stories from both our Register, an interactive online database of military women, and our world class collection.

Recipe:

1 cup water

¼ cup butter

¼ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¼ cup self-rising flour

½ cup Sweetened Condensed Milk

Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught

Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught’s career of service spanned sixty years- first, in the Air Force and then as the founding president of the Military Women’s Memorial in Arlington, VA. Learn about the legacy of this remarkable servicewoman in the first episode of HERstory Spotlight.

Service & Softball

Take me out to the ballgame! Beginning in World War II, servicewomen formed softball leagues to keep America’s pastime going while men were abroad. These women provided entertainment, built camaraderie and established a tradition of women in military athletics which continues today. In honor of the World Series, in this episode of HERstory Spotlight, we explore softball and service.

First Female Marine

The First World War brought women into new roles in the military to fill jobs that would free men to be sent to the war in Europe. Opha May Johnson made history in 1917 as the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps. The Spotlight Series takes a look at stories from both our Register, an interactive online database of military women, and our world class collection.