Welcome, everyone, to this very special occasion.

And a bitter-sweet occasion it is to us.

It’s very sad to be saying goodbye to Mrs. Jane Smith who is closing twenty years of military service.

In 1995, she was one of 1,200 American women deployed to Haiti for peacekeeping duties. She successfully fulfilled her mission. For twenty years, she has had the privilege of serving our great nation with duty, honor, courage, commitment, vision, tenacity, and spirit that all of us, her male and female colleagues, value so much. She has served our country with distinction. She pursued the career and lifestyle of the military, making them the main meaning in her life.

As you know, the official history of American women in the military began over a century ago. In the late 1980s, when Jane began her military career, the percentage of women in the military was quite small, especially in the navy. In many ways, women who wanted to be in the Navy were discriminated. They were not considered to be strong enough to serve equally with men. This view has changed since then. I am proud to say that two million women have served our country. Of the 540,000 Americans who served in the Desert Storm operation, nearly 41 percent were women. It was the largest wartime deployment of American military women in history. Women in the military have great achievements. Nobody doubts that they are playing an important role in peacekeeping missions.

Today, women make up 15 percent of enlisted each year. When Jane began her military career, very few women were prepared to stubbornly move from our profession’s periphery towards its heart. It was very hard, for we, men, dominated in the military and were not ready for any female competition. We thought that girls in the military would give up, unable to be qualified as our equals. But the more they trained and the more they buried their heads over textbooks, the more admirable they became to us. They taught us, with all persuasion and overwhelming willingness to serve our country, to pursue long-term goals, and, despite hardships and obstacles, realize them.

When we were together in the Naval School, we failed to see competitors in women in the military. Now, due to such women as Jane, our predominantly male service has been changed. Jane has succeeded in doing her military duty, and she was several times awarded for her excellent military service. It is almost incredible to believe that she is Mom to these two boys, her sons, who want to follow in their Mom’s footsteps and continue the family tradition in the military. Sleepless nights, far away from her sons, never did Jane complain, never did she show how hard it was to be at the head of a single household and in the military. More than that, she always helped us, men, to overcome separation from our families, with her own example. At the rare moments off our duty, she found warm words that strengthened us. She became our friend with whom we were able to share happiness and troubles. She has become a valuable asset to our military team, qualified, reliable, trustful, understanding, and brave.

We will be missing you, Jane, a lot. We will be missing your sense of humor, your ability not to lose your head in a difficult situation, your friendliness, your open-hearted personality, your good nature. For you, this moment is crucial: you have to alter many things, which is not easy, in order to get adjusted to your new life on land.

From me to you, dear Jane, thank you for inviting me to speak and take this memorable opportunity to wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. You can explore more horizons, here, on land. I am sure you will find new opportunities and pleasures in your civil life.

Happy retirement!