Though women long have been serving in the military, a recent decision — as advocated by the military’s joint chiefs of staff and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta — lifted the military’s official ban on women in combat.
More than 280,000 women have been deployed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “As of last year, more than 800 women had been wounded in the two wars and more than 130 had died,” according to a report in the New York Times. Women clearly already have been in harm’s way in the military, despite the 1994 ruling restricting women from such combat roles as the infantry and artillery.
The change, interestingly, occurs at the same time as troops are being pulled out of Afghanistan, and Panetta is preparing to leave his post after just 18 months on the job. Though Congress doesn’t have to approve this change for it to take effect immediately, it reportedly has bipartisan support.
More than 15 percent of women actively serve in the National Guard today, and they often hold the same positions as their male counterparts — because each meets the same criteria to serve. In Kansas, 18,331 of veterans are females — demonstrating a tradition of military service by women dating as far back as the U.S. Civil War. More than 41,000 women served in theater during Desert Storm, and military women also have been captured and held as prisoners of war — including 90 in World War II — showing the sacrifices they have made despite their gender. Women and men alike have to prove they can hack it to serve in the military. Those who can should, and those who can’t should not.
This decision is long overdue and pays tribute to women who have long performed those treacherous duties to serve their country. Though most women who served in combat did so while camouflaged by their comrades in arms, now they’ll be able to serve with the honor and dignity of their male colleagues and be recognized for doing so.
— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher