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04-01-04, 08:54 AM
Camp Lejeune celebration focuses on 'herstory'
March 31,2004

Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin said her mother always told her to reach for the stars. Krusa-Dossin ended up grabbing one.

The brigadier general was the guest speaker at Camp Lejeune's celebration of Women's History Month, one of eight annual observances mandated by the military. A luncheon was held Tuesday at Marston Pavilion to highlight the past and continuing contributions of women. Women's History Month is one of eight.

Krusa-Dossin, the director for Public Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps, wanted the theme of "freedom" to be apparent in her talk, which she said carried four main lessons: "Refuse to give up your personal will to the power of others;" "Recognize your limitations;" "Don't be afraid to have a dream;" and "When you succeed beyond all expectations and reach that top floor, please remember to send that elevator back down for the next person."

Women are leaders, she said, who share passion and integrity. Celebrating their achievements and remembering their hardships, would motivate for the future.

To illustrate her points, Krusa-Dossin shared stories of notable women throughout history - Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker and the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) - as well as the ones who wear the uniform today and account for 15 percent of active-duty forces and 25 percent of the reserves.

"There really is no room for gender on the battlefield," said Krusa-Dossin, who added that she has seen things continually get better since she was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1975. "I think they stand side-by-side on a very equal basis … There's no gender anymore."

That wasn't the case when Krusa-Dossin joined.

Women weren't allowed to qualify with weapons. They were not authorized to carry or train with the sword. And slacks as part of the uniform?

"It took us a hell of a long time to get to this point too," said Krusa-Dossin, indicating her uniform. "Every damn chance I get, I'm going to wear 'em."

Krusa-Dossin was herself a groundbreaker when she became the first mother in the Marine Corps to wear stars - something unheard of when Shirley John enlisted.

John, the president of the Tarheel Chapter of the Women's Marine Association, signed up in January of 1954 and served 19 months during a period when getting pregnant automatically ended a woman's military career. Getting married effectively did.

John met her husband while in service and was discharged since, at the time, a married couple could not serve aboard the same base.

John attended the luncheon out of solidarity.

"We've all got to stand together … We've come a long ways, and we've got a long ways to go," said John, who enjoyed Krusa-Dossin's speech, particularly hearing about the personal accomplishments that would have been impossible when John served. "Now they can come in and make a career out of it, just like the men do."

Sgt. Nakia Shorts was attending her first Women's History Month celebration. The field wire specialist with 8th Communication Battalion said, before attending, she was unfamiliar with the struggles that previous generations of the Marines who happened to be women faced.

"Hearing the speech and being here today blew my mind," said Short, who was ready with a message to take back to her Marines and, more importantly, her daughters.

"Don't let anyone hold you back," said Shorts of what she planned to tell them.

When she joined the Marine Corps nearly 10 years ago, Shorts said she thought she was enlisting for the challenges. After the ceremony, she laughed at that word and how it applied to her experience in comparison. There were, she said, no real struggles, especially not based on gender.

"We say we're Marines, too," said Shorts. "Don't look at us as women Marines or female Marines. We're Marines too."