Women make up 14 percent of the 1.4 million serving on active duty in the nation's military. And despite being excluded from units designed for direct combat, like infantry brigades, more than 100 women have died in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where insurgent fights have put all military forces at risk for attack.
The ranks of female general officers throughout the armed forces has grown since 1970 when Anna Mae Hays became the first woman to attain the rank of general when promoted to brigadier general to become the chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
Today, 57 women hold the rank of general or admiral; five of them are three-star generals. But their numbers at the very top remain low. Among the Army's 391 generals, 21 of them -- or about 5 percent -- are women. But only four serve above the one-star rank of brigadier general.
Dunwoody said that she has been "humbled" by the enormous attention and support her promotion has received and that she hopes to remain a role model for both men and women in the military.
"I've heard from moms and dads who see this promotion as a beacon of hope for their own daughters, and after affirmation that anything is possible through hard work and commitment."