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Soldier Wins Women's Equality Day Essay Contest

Princeville Lawrence, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
2009-09-08

Spc. Sandra Welden, an Andover, Kan., native and human resources specialist with the 287th Sustainment Brigade, was the winner of a Women's Equality Day essay contest, Aug. 26, at Contingency Operating Base Adder. Welden drew from her experiences as a victim of domestic violence.  Princeville Lawrence



CONTIGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq 09.08.2009

A montage of famous women flashed upon the giant screen; Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Corazon Aquino. Women who made a difference; women who spoke up.

Below the screen, another woman, a Soldier, was honored for speaking up: Spc. Sandra Welden, an Andover, Kan., native and human resources specialist with the 287th Sustainment Brigade.

Short in stature but possessing towering courage, Welden was presented with an Army Commendation Medal and a backpack for winning an essay contest, Aug. 26, during a Women's Equality Day ceremony at Contingency Operating Base Adder.

Women's Equality Day celebrates efforts of advocates of womens' suffrage who, armed with the belief that men and women are born equally, fought for women's suffrage. On Aug. 26, 1920, these efforts led to the signing of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

"The essay I wrote is pretty much about women's rights," said Welden.

"A lot of people are scared to come out and say they're in an abusive relationship because of the fear of being hit again and abused again," said Welden. "So I kind of wrote an essay on how important it is for women to speak out and ask for help and not to be ashamed."

Welden's essay was no abstract thesis, but instead came from her own painful experiences.

"I was in an abusive relationship my first marriage. I figured if I left the guy, the guy would get more abusive toward me and my son. And it took me getting hit in front of my son and getting my eye cut open to actually say, 'ok. This is enough. Enough is enough.'"

"It's made me stronger," Welden said, "because if it wasn't for my son, who witnessed that, I probably would never have the strength to go to the cops and get help."

A recent CBS News investigation estimated more than 25,000 military spouses and domestic partners have been attacked over the past decade.

"Marriages in the Army are put under stress that non-military marriages don't have," said Maj. Stephan Broadus, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division chaplain. "[Victims] shouldn't be afraid to speak out, but we have to acknowledge that there's a lot of pressure not to."

Welden said she was motivated to enter the contest out of a desire to highlight women's rights and strong women.

"Women's Equality Day means a lot to me," she said. "Whether you're a man or a woman, we should be treated the same. Some people don't give women enough credit."

"If you come to look at it, there are some really, really strong women out there," said Welden, referring to the women on the screen.

"They were brave enough to stand up for what they believe in. They were able to speak what was on their mind," said Walden. "Women can be strong too. Just keep on going, no matter how many people tell you, 'you aren't strong,' because deep inside you know you are."

"Even female Soldiers, it seems like everyday we try to prove that we can be just as strong as a male Soldier. I think that if we just keep doing what we're doing, eventually we'll be equal in males' eyes."

"So it's a very important day for me," said Welden. "There are some really, really strong women out there. Every woman is strong in her own way and we need to respect that."






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