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Rosie the Riveter and me

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- As we recognized Women's History Month this March, I was struck by the thought that heroes and role models do not have to be one single person but, in fact, can be several people. For me, this truth is especially relevant.

During World War II, many women opted to take on male dominated trades to support their family while their husbands fought in the war. This was a stark change from an era in which women typically held a position as housewives.

It was in this era that "Rosie the Riveter" was first born. In 1942, Veronica Foster, an actual woman, and who had the previous year became the face of Canada's women in the war effort as "Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl," donned the red bandana and rolled up her sleeves for Canada's neighbors to the south.

"Rosie the Riveter," as she known was soon the iconic image of women entering the workplace and taking up the industrial jobs in support of the nation.

The poster itself spiraled into a multi-dimensional inspiration. Originally, it was meant to represent the millions of woman employed at shipyards and manufacturing plants, who were developing the nation's military arsenal and assembling war supplies.

Shortly after, Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb wrote a song in tribute to "Rosie," which became very popular.

"All the day long,
Where rain or shine
She's part of the assembly line.
She's making history,
Working for victory
Rosie the Riveter"

Even today, "Rosie's" signature expression and inherent strength are an inspiration to millions of Americans, myself included.

I first learned about "Rosie" when I was seven. My mom handed me a magazine to look through and I saw the bright yellow and blue background overlaid with a girl showing her muscles. I was so intrigued by the girl in the red polka-dot bandana.

From that moment on, I constantly asked my parents who she was, what she did and why she did it. I wanted to be exactly like her when I grew up.

I pushed myself hard in high school. During those years, we learned my mother had brain cancer, while my father's health would go from bad to worse. I needed to learn to support myself in any and every way possible. I needed to be independent. I applied myself to school, extra-curricular activities and several different jobs.

My parents signed the papers for me to enter the Air Force at the age of 17. Three weeks after I graduated high school, I was on a plane headed to San Antonio, Texas for Basic Military Training.

Although I do not get my hands dirty on an assembly line every day the way "Rosie" did, I still pull my hair back tight, use my hands to get the job done for our military and provide for my family.

Every time I felt I could not do something, whether in BMT or at my duty station, I remembered the millions of women who rose above and conquered what others thought they could not.

As I was being yelled at by my instructors in BMT, I would tell myself, 'I can do this. I can do this.' I did not want to let them or myself down.

My mother passed away at my first duty station and shortly after that my father passed. During those times, I kept a positive attitude. I needed to; it was who I was, and who I needed to be.

I had a can-do attitude and knew I was not alone; thinking of "Rosie" helped me get back up on my feet and continue to do good things with my life and become a better Airman.
I am a wife of a military member, a mother of two and a full-time Airman myself. I give 100 percent in every aspect in my life. I am a real life "Rosie."

Recently, I received a tattoo of "Rosie" on my right arm as a symbol of how I became who I am today. "Rosie" taught me that all people, not just women, can do anything they want as long as they set their mind to it--and history shows that.

World War II represented a major turning point for women as they eagerly supported the war effort and the long-term significance of the change brought about by the war provided the foundation for the contemporary women's movement.

Although women have made tremendous progress during the past 50 years, "Rosie the Riveter" still stands as a beacon of inspiration and determination.

The "We Can Do It" poster means so much to women in America--a symbol that illustrates both the proud legacy of heritage, and the challenges they will continue to face, and conquer, in the future.