Since 1973, Aug. 26 has been designated Women's Equality Day and commemorates the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The 100-year-old amendment granted women the right to vote. To celebrate, seven Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers were asked what inspired them to serve in the U.S. Army.

U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood Command Sgt. Maj. Faith Alexander

“I joined the Army to experience a different way of life. I was raised in a poverty-stricken environment and I wanted to be better and feel like I was a part of something bigger than my past circumstances. I also wanted the opportunity to change my own life story and narrative. All in all, I wanted to be a better version of myself. I feel I have accomplished that but there is always more work to be done. It is still fun and I love Soldiers. Watching them grow is one of the best parts of this experience.”

Lt. Col. Rachel Bowers, U.S. Army Military Police School personnel proponent officer

“I joined the Army to gain experience before applying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I intended to serve my four-year obligation and then transfer organizations. I remained in the Army because of the difference we make in ourselves, our family, the country and the world. I grew up in a small town in Tennessee and the Army has allowed me to travel the world, meet some extraordinary people and do some amazing feats.”

Lt. Col. Grace Dumayas-Booth, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital Optometry Services chief

“I was attending a community college and I didn’t know how to pay for my tuition. I saw a recruiter on campus one day and began to ask him questions. Here we are 34 years later – I’m still in. Why? It’s about the journey. I was able to live in different countries and cultures, and go on missions that would otherwise not be possible in the civilian sector.”

Sgt. 1st Class Sara Echeberry, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital SHARP victim advocate

“I chose to serve because I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, to serve my nation and make my family proud. I’ve learned a lot during my years in the Army and many amazing Soldiers and great leaders have impacted my life. It’s important that we encourage our sisters in arms to rise alongside their brothers in arms because women have an impact to make as well.”

Col. Kerry Norman, Army Reserve chief of staff

“I joined the Army in 1986 out of pure curiosity and the fact that I had no direction. I served as an enlisted Soldier for six years, but from basic training forward always knew I wanted to be an officer and a commander. 35 years later, the Army has truly been my family and I love seeing what a change the Army can be for Soldiers. There’s just nothing better than making a difference for a Soldier if you can every day you serve. That’s the reward.”

Staff Sgt. Alexandra Shipway, 14th Military Police Brigade training and operations noncommissioned officer

“I originally enlisted in the Army in 2005 at 17 years old as a Military Police Specialist (31B) because I had been impacted by police officers in my youth. As a teenager, I made poor choice after poor choice, but a resource safety officer and two young police officers within my community made it a point to talk to me every day and keep me from becoming another statistic. They encouraged me to improve myself and push for a better life. I truly admired them and wanted to impact people the way they impacted me.”

Capt. Jessica Ward, GLWACH optometrist

“I wanted to serve the physical and visual needs of the military who rely on optometrists to see clearly to serve and fulfill their missions. Optometry has always been my passion and I could not think of a better way to utilize my skills than by providing eye care to those who protect and fight for our country every day. I love interacting with people from all different backgrounds and educating people about the health of their eyes.”