ANNISTON, Ala. -- The Army's highest ranking woman, Maj. Gen. Mary Clarke, ended a 36-year career Friday by reviewing parading troops and meeting with reporters.
Gen. Clarke, the Army's first female major general, said she plans to travel, play golf and spend lots of time at her Jacksonville, Ala., home.
'I have the same love for the Army today as I had the first day I put on my Class A uniform and my ... insignia of the U.S. Army at Fort Des Moines in 1945,' she told a gathering of about 3,000, her voice breaking with emotion.
'I remember looking into the mirror and thinking, Private Clarke, you must be the best looking WAC in the U.S. Army,' said the 56-year-old retiring general.
'And this morning, as I put on my Army green uniform, on active duty for the last time, looking into a different mirror, I said, 'General Clarke, you may not be the best looking major general on the Army, but you certainly are the most fortunate and you have to be the proudest.''
Harry N. Walters, assistant to the Secretary of the Army, presented Gen. Clarke with the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest decoration for peacetime service.
The Rochester, N.Y., native enlisted in 1945 to fill a lingering need to 'do something for the war effort.'
Beginning as a finance clerk, she was promoted to supply sergeant and rose quickly through the ranks. She was the last commander of the Woman's Army Corps before it was consolidated into the regular Army in 1978.
That same year, she became the first woman to command a major installation when she was put in command of Fort McClellan, where the ceremonies were held Friday.
During her last year, she worked in the Pentagon as the Army's director of human resources development. Her office was instrumental in promoting the military pay raise package recently signed into law by President Reagan.