“She Served” exhibit opens at Kennesaw State
Mosaic puts faces to 70 years of women’s military history Top: Former military…
Georgia (Mar 4, 2016) — Mosaic puts faces to 70 years of women’s military history
Top: Former military service members (from left) Raeanna Duck; Debra Day and Agatha Desmond
Center: "She Served" co-creators Raeanna Duck and Shemeka Wilson
Bottom : Maj. Gen. (Retired) Maria Britt delivered the keynote address at "She Served" opening.
KENNESAW‚ Ga. (March 4, 2016) — A group of the 150 or so people who crowded into the Social Sciences Atrium to witness the unveiling this week of “She Served” gathered around the exhibit’s 5-foot mosaic, scanning the nearly 200 tiny images formed into a saluting female military service member in front of an American flag.
Tracy Windley, whose daughter, Kennesaw State student Taelor Moran, submitted her photo, was among the guests trying to pinpoint 1.25-inch square images of themselves or loved ones.
“This is really an honor,” said Windley, who joined the Army in 1989 and deployed to Iraq in 2005 while serving in the Army National Guard. She took turns taking pictures with her two daughters and aunt in front of the mosaic, which was designed to pay tribute to women service members and veterans among the Kennesaw State community and extended family.
The images depicted in the exhibit’s fabric mosaic represent more than 70 years of service by women in all branches of the U.S. military. In a podcast that accompanies the exhibit, seven women who enlisted or served as officers tell their stories. They reveal their pride in service; the duties they performed; obstacles they faced and barriers they broke through while serving in conflicts from World War II through the current engagement in Afghanistan. The exhibit remains on view at the Kennesaw Campus through March 23. It will then be displayed on the Marietta Campus through the remainder of March, which is Women’s History Month.
“Women have made great progress in breaking down barriers to service,” said Maj. Gen. (retired) Maria Britt, associate vice president of operations at Kennesaw State, who shared some of her experiences during the opening’s keynote address and is among those featured in the podcast. “But there is still much work ahead.”
According to Britt, women accounted for 9.8 percent of those serving in the Army when she graduated from West Point in 1983, compared to 16 percent today. Across all the armed services, more than 215,000 women are serving in uniform. In the Army today, more than 78 percent of positions are open to women, compared to 60 percent of positions open to women in 1983.
“When I became the first woman to attend the Army’s Jungle Warfare School in Panama in 1981, I didn’t want special treatment, just the chance to earn a jungle warfare expert patch and be a better soldier and leader,” said Britt. From the reception she got from the Marines running the school at that time, she quickly figured out that she and another female soldier were the first women to try to earn the patch.
Britt recounted an operation in which she was free jumping out of the back of a Chinook helicopter with full gear and broke her nose in two places when the hand guard of a M16 came down on the crown of her nose. She said no one ridiculed a fellow male classmate who suffered a similar accident. But male students laughed and made gestures at Britt’s bruised and battered face.
“Months later, I found that my ‘zombie look alike’ photo, with face swollen, eyes blackened and a broken nose with eight stitches made it to the cadre’s bulletin board. The caption read: ‘This is what happens when women come here!‘“
Britt earned the patch and said she wore it proudly, knowing she had paved the way for other women behind her — women like Canille (Staci) Warde, who was deployed four times in Afghanistan and Iraq and is now a Kennesaw State sophomore majoring in public relations. And like Powelson, an interim director in the University’s Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing, who joined the Air Force during the 1990s. The two are among the seven women featured in the exhibit’s podcast.
In Iraq, Warde worked at various points delivering food and supplies to Iraqi national forces being trained by the U.S. and clearing routes of improvised explosive devices (IED’s) and other threats.
“We were always driving, working 18 to 20 hours and sleeping four hours at a time,” Warde said, describing some of the dangers she faced in Iraq. “The locals were telling us about something up ahead and, using robots, we found that the enemy had put a bomb inside of a cow grazing in a field. We had to take the cow into an abandoned field and blow it up. Another time we found small bombs inside of Skittles wrappers on the road. It was an impossible job, sometimes like finding a needle in haystack.”
Powelson said she saw the military as her opportunity after the steel mills in her native Pittsburgh began to close and jobs became scarce. Twice decorated during her career, she helped train pilots from other countries how to fly jets during the Cold War, helping to command the operation that transitioned them into a tactical fighting wing. She also worked with a team that developed tactical plans to defend the U.S. from an attack by Cuba.
Raeanna Duck, a transition coordinator for Kennesaw State’s veterans and one of the exhibit's creators, said the women depicted in the display represent “a proud tradition of women who have fought for freedom and sacrificed immensely for our nation.”
Geneva Louise Hunt, who enlisted as an apprentice seaman in the Navy in 1942, typifies that pride, according to Leigh Oder, an administrative associate in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, who shares a story about her grandmother on the “She Served” podcast.
“Her work was classified during the war so we didn’t know what she did – just that she worked for the court system,” Oder said. “Still, she was a big influence on my life because of her commitment to the military and her strong patriotism. She was very proud of her service.”
— Sabbaye McGriff
Photos by David Caselli
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.