by Kimberly A. Cook (Twitter@ WarriorTales)
About damn time. The final lifting of restrictions on women in combat last week is about 237 years late. Women have fought and died for America since before it was a country. Women even dressed up as men to serve in the Revolutionary War. Better late than never, I guess.
Me and my M16 in the waiting area before heading out to the rifle range at Fort McClellan, Alabama, Fall 1975. (For safety, no ammo until we got to the firing range)
The combat exclusion has always been a discrimination and generational issue to me. We have made strides since I entered the Army in 1975 as part of the new “all volunteer force” after Vietnam. The Army NEEDED women to fill out its ranks. Now, 38 years after I received “voluntary” M16 rifle training, military women will be able to achieve rank and advance alongside their warrior brothers without the handcuffs of unequal opportunity holding them back from combat duty.
These exclusions were never about women being capable to handle the jobs; it’s been about sexist male top brass and America being able to handle women coming home in body bags. Women have two choices when it comes to war, we can be warriors or victims.
One of my World War II veteran students asked me what I thought about women in combat many years ago. He thought women were “too pretty” to get shot.
“You have to look at it from my perspective,” I told him. “Who said it was okay to shoot our men? Bummer of a birthright. Besides, I am no less a citizen of this country because I have different plumbing.”
Is military service for everyone? No, less than one percent of our USA population serves in the military. So if a woman or man can pass the tests for a job, they should be allowed to do the job. When I served with the Fourth Infantry Division, we had Army cowgirls who could breakdown five-ton truck tires with a sledge-hammer and men in the same outfit who couldn’t pick up the sledge. Test for the job and not the person’s plumbing and it will all work out.
Combat should always be a last resort for our nation, but there are times when the bullies of this world will not back down and action must be taken. When that happens, all our citizens are needed to share the burden of national security.
While we welcome home all our returning veterans and take on the large job of veteran reintegration after two long wars, we need to listen and help them heal with love and understanding. We must let all our veterans, Reserve, Guard and active duty know that they and their stories are important. It’s the least we can do as we benefit from their sacrifices.
I especially encourage my fellow women warriors to write their stories because so often our female history is lost. I salute my warrior sisters past, present and future. Hoo-ah!