Midway police Chief Kelli Morningstar urged attendees at Fort Stewart Women’s History Month observance to “never give up.”
The 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, hosted the event Wednesday, displaying photos of distinguished female military veterans around Woodruff Theatre. The theme of the observance was “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.”
Morningstar, Midway’s first female police chief, is a retired Army veteran originally from Schenectady, New York. She said she was honored to be chosen to speak to the soldiers.
“My main message is basically never give up, always put your best foot forward, keep your head up, and when you hit rock bottom, just hit reset,” she said. “And just continue to train because training is what keeps us in the game.”
Mentors, she said, were “very important” in her life.
“Without strong military leadership — females in my military career — I know that I would have done my first enlistment and just moved on,” Morningstar said. “But having strong female leadership truly taught me that we can excel, and we can exceed the standards that anybody puts in front of us.”
The military taught her to “stay focused” and “lead from the front.”
“I just want them to never give up,” Morningstar said about what she wanted young women to know. “Having five girls of my own, that’s one of the things that I tell them, that they can do whatever they want in life. But they just have to have that drive and that want.”
During the observance, Capt. Ivette Febocalderon read President Barack Obama’s proclamation for Women’s History Month, which mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the opening of all positions to women in the military, but also the work that still needs to be done for gender equality.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alicia Nelson of 2nd IBCT read to the audience about the contribution of women throughout history.
“I feel like women have progressed significantly in the military,” she said before the ceremony. “We now hold a lot of positions that were once only held by men. So we have made great strides.”
Nelson also said female role models in the military have been “significant” to her.
“Because you have to have someone to look up to, to say this is what I want to be when I get to that position,” she said. “Or the leader that I want to be as a female.”
First Sgt. Lashelle Williams with 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd IBCT, is a welder who said she usually was the only female in her section because of the large number of males in her field.
“Being the only female, it pushed me to go on and just try harder because I did always feel like I always had to prove myself,” she said. “But it just made me better at what I did.”