Honoring women in military service

Written by Lt. j.g. Katie Braynard

Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse with Therese Hughes at the opening for the "In a Heart Beat" exhibit. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Stonehouse.

Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse with a Coast Guard veteran at the opening for the “In a Heart Beat” exhibit. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Stonehouse.

“A photograph is worth a thousand words.”

We’ve all heard this saying for countless years, and for Therese Hughes, she believed photographs would hopefully tell a rich history of women’s service in the military.

After working through the Department of Defense, Hughes began a project to collect 90 photographs of women serving in each branch of the military to compile into a photojournalism book that would live on for decades and tell the stories of each of those women’s service.

Hughes began her interviews in California, and word spread like wildfire about the initiative.

“One name went to 25, 25 went to 300, and as of September of this year, I had interviewed almost 800 women, from World War II to present,” she said.

Hughes, whose mother joined the WAVES during World War II, knew nothing about her mother’s service. She said her mother never spoke of her service and never kept any records. Hughes learned more about her mother’s service from a photograph sent to Hughes by her cousin after her mother had passed away. In the photo, her mother was 25 years old and graduating from officer candidate school. This is part of the inspiration that spurred her interest in the project.

And now, this project will help to preserve the history and honor women that choose to serve our country and ensure their legacies do not go untold.

“It has been phenomenal,” Hughes said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse's photo is currently featured in the exhibit "In a Heart Beat" at the Women in Military Service of America Memorial. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse.

Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse’s photo is currently featured in the exhibit “In a Heart Beat” at the Women in Military Service of America Memorial. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse.

Hughes began her work with the Coast Guard with Robbie Fee, a Coast Guard veteran who served from 1985 to 1994. She went on to interview Rear Adm. Cari Thomas. She then went on to connect with Vice Adm. Jody Breckenridge, who opened the door for Hughes to interview SPARs and countless others – to include junior and senior enlisted and junior officers currently serving. One of the women she eventually came into contact with was Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse, a storekeeper stationed in San Francisco, California, at the time.

Stonehouse jumped right into assisting Hughes with her project, pulling women together to participate in interviews and offering any assistance she could provide.

“I was so impressed with Ms. Stonehouse,” said Hughes. “You remember people like that. She spoke about the core patriotism she had. She talked about when she was younger and enlisted and how she grew and adapted to where she is now. I was just really impressed by her.”

Eventually, Hughes’ project became more than a book – it became a display called “In a Heart Beat” at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

The opening for the exhibit was the Friday before Veteran’s Day weekend – and Hughes reached out to Stonehouse to see if she would be willing to attend and speak at the event.

“When Mrs. Hughes emailed me and told me that my photo and interview would be part of the ‘In a Heart Beat’ exhibit, I was extremely humbled,” said Stonehouse. “Then when she asked me to speak at the event I was literally left speechless.”

Stonehouse was the only Coast Guard member in attendance for the event, representing all the Coast Guard women that had shared their stories and experiences with Hughes.

“For today, I represent the now and the future of women in the military,” Stonehouse said in her speech at the event.

Stonehouse went on to describe how it was important for her to be there in order to better understand and pay respect to the women who enabled her to be standing there.

She ended with a simple message to all the veteran women in attendance.

“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for your service, thank you for your tolerance, thank you for your bravery and thank you for paving the way for my future. I will continue your efforts to ensure the service for future female generations is as positive as my own.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse was invited to speak at the opening of the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse.

Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse was invited to speak at the opening of the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Mallory Stonehouse.

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