FORT HOOD — June 12 is the first ever Women Veterans Day in Texas, but Fort Hood is celebrating a day early.
Veterans and the community are recognizing the achievements made by women who have served in the past 70 years, organized by the Women's Army Corps Veterans Association.
Sergeant Major Anthonette Horton with the 1st Cavalry Sustainment Brigade said it was awe-inspiring to be in a room with women veterans whom she calls trailblazers, and said she would not be where she is today without them.
"So without them being the first, I wouldn't have the opportunity to be in the sustainment brigade where there was all female leadership. So without them stepping out there and saying, hey I'm gonna do this and I'm gonna make a way for leaders like myself, I wouldn't have the opportunity," Sergeant Horton said.
For 27 years, Horton has called the Army home. But it's thanks to soldiers like Gulf War veteran Retired Sergeant First Class Samenta Fant for charting that path.
"Pretty scary. Deployed on my 30th birthday, December 11, 1990. And then we came back six months later and I didn't know if I'd ever see my daughter again. She was two-and-a-half, but that kept me going," Fant said.
Fant was a drill sergeant before she deployed.
"Anytime you're trying to step into the male world, right, it's very hard and you have to prove yourself. And you have to work, to me, doubly as hard as your male counterparts," Retired Sergeant First Class Samenta Fant, a Gulf War veteran said.
And that is something Sergeant Brittany Talley appreciates as she looks back on who came before her.
"Women who served when they were looked at less than a human being, especially women of African descent. You see the progress and the power in these women in how they speak and how they carry themselves," Talley said.
But even with the progress, there is still more to be done, according to Dr. LaShondra Jones, a former Marine Corps Corporal. Jones said there are still women veterans suffering in silence and notes the female veteran suicide rate is rising while the male veteran suicide rate is declining.
"When you go in, you don't raise your right hand to be sexually assaulted by someone in your platoon or someone in your chain of command. You expect to go and serve your country and to return home the way you were when you left. But that pretty much never happens," Jones said.
A simple "thank you" is just the start.
"So just to see they themselves as historical figures and recognize that as a blessing is truly can't even put it into words," Talley said.
For more on Women Veterans Day, click here.