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As female veterans of the U.S. armed services, we wish to thank President Barack Obama for his protection of the historic Sewall-Belmont House in Washington as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument. This unassuming building near the U.S. Capitol celebrates the trailblazing American women who fought for women’s equality and the betterment of our communities and our country. We are grateful for these women and the opportunities today that their leadership affords us.

The Sewall-Belmont House was command central for Alice Paul and other women of the National Women’s Party who fought for the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment — guaranteeing women the right to vote. The house now forever commemorates women’s progress toward equality under the law thanks to its protection by Obama via the Antiquities Act.

About 10 of the more than 400 national park sites in this country specifically commemorate women’s history. Protecting this site is a step toward ensuring that our national parks and other protected public lands not only offer opportunities to learn about science and nature, history and culture — but also offer critical inspiration as our daughters and granddaughters continue to seek equality in their classrooms, workplaces and on the battlefield.

As veterans, we too are part of a proud tradition of women serving their country. The arc of women’s history that includes Alice Paul also includes the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which was established in 1942 as a branch of the U.S. Army. It includes Air Force veteran Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar (the second woman in history to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor medal), who successfully fought to repeal the Combat Exclusion Policy. It includes Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver — the first two women to graduate from the Army’s elite Ranger School.

There are those in Congress who would curtail the president’s ability to use the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect historic places like the Sewall-Belmont House, and other sites that commemorate our nation’s history and heroes. Chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Rob Bishop appears to want to abolish the Antiquities Act altogether — despite the law being used by 16 U.S. presidents: eight Republicans and eight Democrats.

The Antiquities Act not only has been used to protect such iconic American places worth fighting for as the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty, it has also been used to specifically ensure that our military history and heritage can be preserved for future generations. For instance, in 2013, with support from a bipartisan congressional delegation, Obama protected the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, commemorating Young’s service to our nation as a man born into slavery who went on to become a colonel, the highest ranking black officer in the Army at the time, and telling the story of the storied Buffalo Soldiers, who defended the Union and, later, our national parks.

The Sewall-Belmont House now joins these storied ranks, for which we are glad. Thank you, President Obama, for working to expand the stories told and sites protected in our system of public lands. Protecting the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument honors the women who bravely fought for suffrage — and inspires those who bravely fight today — for their families, for their communities and for our nation.


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