Commentary – Strong Women Shaped My Life Published Feb. 28, 2023 By Senior Airman Jaiil Smith, Special Observance Committee co-chairperson HILL AIR FORCE BASE – When I ponder on Women’s History Month, I think of the strength women have continually displayed throughout history and their tenacity and ability to overcome obstacles with grace and humility. Women’s History Week originated in Santa Rosa, California in 1978. The week corresponded with International Women’s Day and in 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 affirming March, Women’s History Month. As I reflect on the women in my life, I can say my mother and grandmother shaped the person I am today. My mother and grandmother were the epitome of strength, perseverance, and resilience. My mother’s strength continues to amaze me. As an enlisted military member, she married and had three amazing children. During the birth of my younger sister, she had complications that led to a series of strokes, taking away her memory and temporarily her ability to take care of herself. She went through intense medical care and physical therapy to walk and talk again. My mother and father eventually divorced, and my mother decided to move back to her hometown, Cambridge, Maryland, for support. For the next three years, my mother worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant to provide for our family. Due to the events which led us back to Cambridge, my mom developed many insecurities about her ability as a mother. She was afraid she was not good enough and could not properly provide for us. This discouraged her tremendously until she garnered the courage to go back to college. My mom was terrified of this huge change in her life, especially with three children to support, but she took a leap of faith to provide a better life for us and set a positive example. My mother enrolled at Wesleyan University in Delaware, which was one hour and thirty minutes away from our home. To ensure she made it to class in time, she would wake everyone up at 5 a.m., to get everyone dressed and ready by 6 a.m. My grandmother picked us up at 6 a.m., took us to her house for breakfast and then to school. After school, my grandmother picked us up and took us back to her house. My grandmother bought us sports equipment to keep us active and occupied until my mother returned from class. After the long commute, my mother picked us up, cooked dinner, asked about our school day and then got us in bed. We did this routine for four and half years until my mom finished college. There were many nights I would hear my mother crying during this time. She cried because she felt like she failed as a mother and because she did not think she could finish. Despite her doubts, my mother graduated with an exceptional grade point average. She is now a psychiatric RN running the Maryland State Mental Hospital. She leads more than 30 nurses and cares for 100 patients. My mother pushed through all her fears and anxiety. She was the first person who showed me I could accomplish anything. She taught me to never doubt my capabilities and showed me the true meaning of resilience. Her example has gotten me through many tough times in my life and is the reason I am standing here today. Also, none of this would have been possible without the love and strength of my grandmother. My mother served this country and her family with love, strength, persistence, and grace. Many women serve this nation and their families simultaneously. As of 2022, nearly 662, 000 women served in the Department of Defense as either Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, or Civilian personnel. The contributions and sacrifice of women must be celebrated. “A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong” – Unknown.