Military Women: All Guts, No Glory
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While the U.S. government says women are not fit to serve in combat, the rest of the world doesn’t agree—at least not Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, and Sweden.
In late September, Australia, which contributes the largest contingent of non-NATO soldiers to Afghanistan, was added to that list. “In the future,” announced Australia’s Defense Minister Stephen Smith, “your role in the defense force will be determined on your ability, not on the basis of your sex.”
There’s also no denying that U.S. women are already serving with valor in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.
Consider Nashville’s Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester, who was awarded the Silver Star for saving members of her convoy when it was ambushed by 34 enemy soldiers. Or consider Lieutenant Tammy Duckworth, who lost both her legs and shattered her right arm when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq. Duckworth went on to serve as a high-ranking Veterans Affairs administrator, to race two Chicago Marathons on a hand-cranked bicycle, and to recently launch a vigorous campaign for Congress in Illinois. Oh yes, and she’s still a member of the Illinois Army National Guard.
According to the iCasualties website, 136 servicewomen have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, and by the DOD’s own admission, 60 percent of these deaths have stemmed from “hostile attacks.” “The loss of life in battle can be the ultimate act of bravery,” says retired Air Force pilot Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, president of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. “There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing it said that this sacrifice isn’t happening, that somehow the loss of a servicewoman’s life in battle isn’t as noble or heroic or as meaningful.”
Molly M. Ginty is an award-winning reporter who has written for Ms., On the Issues Magazine, Women’s eNews, PBS, Planned Parenthood, and RH Reality Check. Excerpted from Ms. Magazine, a publication that’s been on the leading edge of feminist politics, arts, and culture since 1972.
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