When Mary Melson joined the Navy's Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES, program May 4, 1944, the now 91-year-old woman wasn't thinking about blazing a trail, raising the glass ceiling or strengthening women's civil rights - she just wanted to be in the Navy.
"We were in a terrible war, things were awful, and I loved my country ... I wanted to help if I could," she said.
Similarly, more than 70 years later, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Maura Thompson wasn't thinking about the profound statement of progress she was making on behalf of the Navy when she was accepted as one of the first female officers to serve aboard a submarine - the ballistic-missile submarine USS Louisiana (SSBN 734).
"It's never about the glory of the individual, it's about the mission ... the real joy is the work and the Sailors," she said.
Despite not setting out to be standouts in the ever progressing diversification of the Navy, these two women are examples of exactly that. Blazing a trail that will only get farther and wider as women continue to integrate into every career field the military has to offer.
During the Bossier City, Shreveport Navy Week, these two women were given the chance to discuss their shared place in history as pioneers, and also about their shared interest; the Navy.
"We were just two women in the Navy, talking about what we were passionate about — we talked about work," said Thompson. "It was awesome."
Thanks to the event, both women were able to not only speak to each other and relate to shared circumstances, but also focus on the younger women in the crowds and through their personal experiences, strengthen a new legacy of motivators.
"I think about it all the time when I look at younger women on subs - one of them will end up being the first female submarine commanding officer and one of them the first female submarine admiral," said Thompson.
"All around at these Navy events are a line of women, like Melson, who broke boundaries not for the sake of personal glory but because there was a job they loved and wanted to do. Now, others can enjoy that same love. I wouldn't trade my job for anything in the world - I love being on subs. I love the Navy."
Navy Weeks focus a variety of assets, equipment and personnel on a single city for a week-long series of engagements designed to bring America's Navy closer to the people it protects, in cities that don't have a large naval presence.
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