By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael P. Semales, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs
U.S. 7th Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and its embarked Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet staff joined the nation in the honoring of Women’s History Month in a observance held March 22.
The Navy encourages participation from its service members for all heritage celebrations and special observances. This year, Navy commands are encouraged to focus on the theme “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence.”
With this theme in mind, the Blue Ridge Diversity Committee held a Women’s History Month celebration on the ship’s mess decks to pay tribute to exemplary female service members of the past and to hear personal accounts from current Blue Ridge crew members with hopes for an even stronger future.
Throughout the event, which featured a specially-prepared meal for the crew, a cake-cutting ceremony and live music, various speakers discussed the significance of women’s roles in Navy History and the paths they paved for modern day Naval service members.
The keynote speaker of the event, Blue Ridge Deck Department Head Lt. Colleen Benjamin, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., directly addressed the women in the audience on their progressive involvement.
“Today I look at all of the talented female Sailors following in the footsteps of those first women, and I hope that we can continue to be the example they set for us while continuing to push the ball forward,” said Benjamin. “We will continue to demonstrate why diverse voices add value to the team.”
The master of ceremonies, Musician 3rd Class Kathryn Whitbeck of San Marcos, Texas, conducted the schedule of events, as well as performing a rendition of the 1985 U.S.A. for Africa hit “We Are the World.”
“I’m grateful to the women and men who, in the past, made it possible for me to serve,” said Whitbeck after the event. “The spirits of those who paved our way are alive and well, shown to us in the presence of women serving with the right to perform in any occupation in the Navy.”
Logistics Specialist Seaman Zikeya Hammond-Douglas, from Philadelphia, who spoke to the audience about American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou during a segment titled “Who Am I,” concluded her piece with a final remark.
“Each year that I’ve been in the Navy I have noticed the growth and improvement of women’s prominence in the military first hand,” said Hammond-Douglas. “I believe whole heartedly that our mission wouldn’t be nearly as successful without a strong representation of equality in the workforce.”
Blue Ridge is the oldest operational ship in the Navy, and as 7th Fleet command ship, is responsible for patrolling and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia Pacific Region.
For more news from USS Blue Ridge, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lcc19/.