By Lesley Maceyak, Fort Lee Public Affairs
FORT LEE, Va. – First lady of the Commonwealth Dorothy McAuliffe and other distinguished guests attended a historical highway marker unveiling ceremony May 26 at the CASCOM Plaza.
The event honored the legacy of the Women’s Army Corps and its training center once located at Fort Lee, as well as the 15th anniversary of the U.S. Army Women’s Museum. The WAC Training Center operated here from 1948-1954 and produced around 30,000 women Soldiers.
It took more than a year for the Army Women’s Museum staff to research and assemble the historical materials required by the state’s Department of Historic Resources to have the marker placed on Highway 32 near the Lee Avenue Gate.
Edward H. Mann, Virginia DHR chairman, attended the event and underscored the importance of sharing a the WAC story, saying their hard work and proud heritage at Fort Lee should be remembered and celebrated for all time.
Sgt. Maj. Velma Lyons, 401st Army Field Support Battalion, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, was among the guest speakers at the ceremony. She joined the Army in 1978 and was in one of the last graduating classes before the WAC Training Center was disestablished in the spring of that year. She reflected on her journey in the Army, which is closing in on 40 years.
“The WACs paved the way for me to be the women I am today,” she said. “I remember the day when we took off the goddess insignia, Pallas Athena, to put on our new branch pins. That, for me, was the medical corps. In many ways … I was saddened because I knew it was the passing of a historical moment.”
Maj. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, thanked the visiting dignitaries, surviving WAC veterans and guests from the surrounding community for making the event possible.
“Today, we recognize a group of Soldiers who played a vital role in shaping the history of our Army and our nation,” said Williams. “I also am excited to announce the kick-off of the Camp Lee/Fort Lee centennial celebration. Next summer, Fort Lee will mark 100 years of service to our nation in central Virginia. We are extremely proud of the significant role WACs have played in that history and the legacy of this magnificent post you see today.”
The last guest speaker, Lt. Gen. Karen Dyson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army said, “We commemorate this historical highway marker as an important reminder of the courageous women who selflessly answered the call of our nation, shaped opportunities for my generation and set the example for those who follow.”