The Few, The Proud, The Women!!!
Today marked an historic day in the history of Women Warriors!
Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta announced that women will no longer be excluded from combat roles in the Armed Forces of the United States. Women will be allowed to serve in combat units as well as assume command roles. Effectively this means that we can indeed look forward to the opportunity of seeing a woman Chair of the Joint Chiefs in the not so distant future.
Practically, each of the four branches of the service, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, has been charged with assessing how best to integrate women into combat specialities. They will also develop time tables for phasing in women to these roles including such elite units as the Navy SEALS and Special Forces. In order to ensure that women have the same opportunities as their male counterparts, the assessment will include reviews of the physical requirements to assess how best to make those standards gender neutral.
Women have routinely served in front lines roles in Afghanistan and Iraq, albeit in “support” roles. Those positions have, however, not stopped these women from participating in fierce fire fights. As of this writing 152 women have died in those wars and nearly 1,000 have been wounded.
Don’t be fooled though, women have been fighting wars for millenia!
Here are a smattering of those heroines:
Artemesia of Halicarnassus (modern day Bodrum, Turkey) was an ally of the Persian King Xeres in 480 BCE. She commanded five ships and fought bravely in battle. Her exploits were recounted by Herodotus.
Joan of Arc fought along King Charles of France in his war against the British. She was eventually burned at the stake for heresy, including the crime of dressing as man. Exonerated some years later by the Roman Catholic Church, she was canonized in 1909.
Hannah Snell was a British woman who fought as a British Marine named James Gray from 1747-1750. She participated in battles in India and was wounded a total of 11 times without ever revealing her gender.
Loreta Janeta Velasquez disguised herself and acted as a Confederate Scout named Lt. Harry T. Buford during the American Civil War. Hundreds of women in both the Union and Confederate Armies had distinguished careers as “male” soldiers.