CORAOPOLIS, Pa. --
In 1971, U.S. Congress designated Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day. While this day was established to celebrate and recognize the importance of women’s work and suffrage movement, it also stands as a reminder that we need to support each other. At the 171st Air Refueling Wing, this support is part of being an Airman. But what happens when the Airman is also your mother?
“It’s an honor to be a woman serving in the military, and I feel privileged to be following in the footsteps of someone like my mother,” said 1st Lt. Caleigh Reese, an aircraft maintenance officer.
Reese has been serving with her mother since 2012. Senior Master Sgt. Andrea Henry serves as the superintendent of the military personnel section in the Force Support Squadron at the 171st.
“She has over 30 years of experience. She’s my sounding board, but she always stays on the line of helping me make a decision while letting me figure things out for myself,” said Reese.
Being a strong Airman means knowing part of your duty is bettering yourself and those around you — not so different than one of the many roles of a mother.
“She has always been my role model. To watch her work and see the respect she has earned from other Airmen made me strive to work better and be better,” said Reese.
Motivation can be a shared relationship though.
“We push each other. Helping each other along the way is something you can’t describe,” said Henry.
Helping to lift other women up is also a part of women’s equality.
“At times, it can be difficult as a mom of two under the age of two, trying to balance work and life, but I feel so lucky to have great women at the 171st who have supported me and given me advice, including my mom,” said Reese. “She has always supported me through not only my military career, but my entire life. It’s such a unique experience, and it’s definitely not something I take for granted.”
While many women serve in the U.S. military today, there was a time when women were discouraged from joining the military.
“My mother always wanted to join, but her parents wouldn’t let her join,” said Henry. “I consider it a privilege to serve while watching my daughter grow into the woman she is — the daughter, mother, airman and officer she has grown to be.”
Another part of women’s equality is trying to leave things better for the next generation. Something Henry embraced for her own daughter.
“People will always say ‘oh your daughter outranks you,’ and I say, ‘Yes, she does,’ and I am very proud of that,” said Henry. “I want her to achieve so much more than me. I want nothing but the best for her.”
As we celebrate this Women’s Equality Day, we need to remember all the strong females in our nation’s history and our own lives.
“As women, we follow the footsteps of those before us who pushed boundaries, and it is our job to continue breaking down more doors and more barriers,” said Reese.