As a child, Leigh Ann Hester’s father took her to see parade where she watched service men and women march in uniform. Looking up as they moved in sharp formation, Leigh Ann knew she wanted to be one of them one day— she longed to serve her country.
In April 2001, age 21, her childhood dream became reality when she joined the National Guard. Hester enlisted as a Military Police Officer, because it was, in 2001, one of the few positions where a woman could get out into the field.
On March 20, 2005, Sgt.1st Class Hester led a Humvee providing protection for 30 semi-tractor trailers outside of Baghdad when they came under fire. From a nearby orchard and in ditches along the road, more than 50 insurgents were attacking from all sides. Hester and a fellow squad leader, Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein, ran straight into the gunfire with no cover to fire back.
For her valiant efforts, Hester was awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest decoration in the U.S. military, making her the first woman since World War II to receive the award and the first woman ever to receive the award for valor in combat.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, PBS’ National Memorial Day Concert will pay tribute to the contributions of women in our military throughout history.
From Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man to serve in the Revolutionary War, to the more than 430,000 women who volunteered as nurses, telephone operators and pilots in both World War One and World War II, to the thousands of women who answered the call during the Korea War and Vietnam war, serving in MASH medical units, women have been a part of the U.S. military since its inception and continue to be today. Hester’s story will represent the more than 300,000 women have volunteered to serve our country in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The segment will conclude by honoring women representing generations of service since WWII from the 5 branches of the military on stage with Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning actress Allison Janney of The West Wing and Tony-nominated actress and star of TV’s Falling Water and The West Wing, Mary McCormack.
The concert will air on your local PBS Sunday, May 27, 2018, from 8 to 9:30 p.m.
About the author: Capital Concerts is the nation’s leading producer of live patriotic television shows, including PBS’s highest-rated performance specials: National Memorial Day Concert and A Capitol Fourth, the premier celebrations of America’s most important holidays broadcast from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. For more than 35 years, these two award-winning productions have become national traditions, bringing together Americans to celebrate freedom and democratic ideals and to pay tribute to those who defend them.