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Women have played vital roles in the military from the Revolutionary War through conflicts around the world today.

On Female Veterans Day, March 27, 16 women were honored by Gov. Tom Wolf, first lady Frances Wolf, and Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“Today is a day to celebrate women veterans in every branch of the military,” Gov. Wolf said. “We have women from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Navy Reserve, Pennsylvania National Guard and Marine Corps, all here so we can thank them and let them know their hard work and sacrifice is truly appreciated. The commitment these women have made to their country and our commonwealth means so much to us. This day is about expressing our gratitude in one small way.”

Pennsylvania has more than 60,000 female veterans, Carrelli said.

The veterans were selected as part of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women’s program to honor female veterans.

“One of our biggest missions as a commission is to support female service members and veterans, and this event, which continues to grow in size each year, is one way we can elevate these inspiring women and the vitally important ways they contribute to keeping Pennsylvania, and our nation, safe,” Commission chair Randi Teplitz said.

Two women from Cumberland County were honored at the event, held at the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg.

Teresa Gallagher is a retired helicopter pilot for the Pennsylvania National Guard, who began her flying career in 1985 after graduating from flight school. In 2009, she deployed to Iraq as the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade commander. Concurrent with her military career, Gallagher served as a science teacher at Abraxas Juvenile Detention Center and the Scotland School for Veterans’ Children. She is employed as an instructional systems designer for the Department of Defense.

Charlotte Kinney of Carlisle served in the U.S. Army, both active duty and reserves, from 1963 to 1994. She started her career in the Woman’s Army Corps College Junior program, and was commissioned upon graduation.

Kinney’s purpose in joining the Army was to be a chaplain, although at the time women were barred from that job. However, she was instrumental in helping to open the doors for women. Kinney is completing her master’s degree at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, and this week answers five questions about her military service.

Q. What motivated you to join the Army in 1963?

A. As a freshman in college, I received a letter from my church telling of the need for chaplains in the military. It was one of those “aha” moments and I knew this is where God wanted me to be even though women could not be chaplains at that time. When I graduated from college, I received a direct commission as a second lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps and went on active duty. I served 29 years on active duty and in the reserves in recruiting, public relations, administration and personal positions on posts around the USA, as well as in the Republic of Korea and Japan. I retired as a lieutenant colonel.

Q. Throughout your career, you worked to open the door for women to be able to serve in the Chaplain Corps. What did that involve?

A. Feeling that it was right for women to be chaplains, I contacted Army chaplains, news correspondents, church officials and seminaries with that goal in mind. In 1968, I met with Gen. (William) Westmoreland, the Army chief of staff, and told him about my desire to be a chaplain. He surprised me when he said he totally agreed and sent me to the Pentagon to talk with the chief of chaplains. Although nothing changed at that time, a few years later in the mid-1970s while I was stationed in the Pentagon, the Army ended the WAC as a separate branch and integrated us into the total Army. The chief of chaplain’s office was right next to my office and they knew of my aspiration so I was given the privilege of editing the chaplain regulation and deleting the words “male only.” By then it was too late in my career to attend seminary, but at last the doors were open for other women.

Q. Even though you were never able to serve as a chaplain, what does it mean to you that women are now allowed to do so because of your work?

A. I am deeply grateful that women can now serve as chaplains, and perhaps my efforts were somewhat instrumental in helping them reach that goal. I have had current military women thank me and tell me that it was women from my generation that helped to open many doors for them not just in the chaplain branch.

Q. Recently, you were honored by Gov. Tom Wolf at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion. What happened at that event?

A. Last week, the Pennsylvania Commission for Women hosted their third annual Female Veterans Day Ceremony at the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg in recognition of Women’s’ History Month. I was one of the fifteen military women selected from Pennsylvania to attend the ceremony and reception with Gov. Wolf and Mrs. Wolf with Maj. Gen. Carrelli, the Pennsylvania adjutant general, where we were honored for our service. It was a special time to listen to the accomplishments of these women (active, reserves and retired) from all branches of service who broke through gender barriers and helped contribute to the equality of women. We each received a certificate from the governor and Mrs. Wolf recognizing our service to the citizens of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This was followed by an elegant reception with exquisite sweet confections.

Q. What would you tell a young woman today who wants to pursue a military or nontraditional career?

A. I would encourage young women today to consider serving in the military, whether it is for a short time or a career. The opportunities are innumerable, the training is outstanding and the experience will help prepare them for a future career in the civilian world. And it is one place of employment where women receive the same equal pay and benefits as the men.

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Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.

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Carlisle Reporter

Carlisle Reporter for The Sentinel.