CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa - "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” as written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the Declaration of Sentiments.
Due in part to the Declaration of Sentiments, the 19th Amendment came to fruition Aug. 26, 1920, granting suffrage to women.
Ninety-three years after Congress passed the amendment, Marines, spouses and civilian employees from various units on Okinawa came together for an annual Women’s Equality Day observance luncheon Aug. 30 at Camp Hansen.
The observance was hosted with the intent to educate service members and civilian employees of the significance of equality in the Marine Corps and how it is defined, according to Master Gunnery Sgt. Rafika O. Vann, the equal opportunity adviser for III Marine Expeditionary Force.
During the luncheon, the attendees viewed a video about women’s suffrage, which revealed to them how limited women’s rights had been before advancements were made during the suffrage and civil rights movements, according to the video. On average, women were paid less and endured undesirable working hours.
The 19th Amendment brought women closer to the ability to pursue a life of their choice, according to the video. The amendment also gave women a voice in what happened around them and affirmed their importance in society.
A more recent step toward equality happened in January when the Department of Defense announced its intention of opening combat-arms jobs to female service members by 2016.
“I’ve been fighting alongside women since 2003,” said Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and guest speaker at the event. “The infantrymen of our battalion welcomed these women as their own. They were treated as a part of the team.”
The Marine Corps has already opened the Infantry Officers Course to female service members and has announced its intention of integrating the Infantry Training Battalion in an effort to study the gender-integration of combat-arms jobs.
“We need equality,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Breeding, a guest speaker and intelligence analyst with Production and Analyst Company, 3rd Intelligence Battalion, III MEF Headquarters Group. “We cannot survive as a species, at the most basic form, without working with others and using other people’s differences to reach a culminating point and expounding upon that.
“Eventually, I think we will resolve the issue and we will live together as people. We will not be man or woman, black or white. We will just be people.”