When someone describes a soldier, it’s common to picture a strong man in battle gear. But this is not always the case.
Women have been serving our country for years, but only recently have they been given the chance at combat on the front lines.
In 1994, U.S. military leaders issued a ban on women being placed in smaller ground combat units.
This has been in debate for many years now, but as of Jan. 17, our country’s current military leaders have lifted this ban.
When I look at a female and a male soldier side-by-side, I do not see their genders. I see people ready to risk their lives for our country.
CLU junior Kelly DeRose is also confused to why this had been in debate for so long.
“I could never understand the debate over women on the front lines,” said DeRose. “It has always been clear to me that women are more than capable to take part and fight for their country.”
Regardless of the ban that has been in effect for nearly 10 years, women have found themselves in more and more combat realities with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
My sister, 31-year-old Jamie McKay, has been serving with the U.S. Army for the past 12 years, and with or without the ban, she has seen combat.
McKay is a medic in the Army and has been on four separate deployments.
Her first was a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, followed by three in war zones.
McKay served twice in Afghanistan and once in Iraq.
At first, McKay was restricted to inside the base walls where she would help injured soldiers and local civilians. But it was during her second overseas deployment to Iraq where she made history.
“It was during the Iraq deployment that I saw the front lines,” said McKay. “I became one of the first females in Army history to be a line medic on combat missions.”
A true soldier is not measured by brute strength.
We are far past the times of hand-to-hand combat with bayonets and swords.
“Being an American soldier is not just about brute physical strength,” said DeRose. “It’s about having love for your country, a strong will, courage and a strategic state of mind.”
A real soldier is measured by their ability to handle high-pressured situations.
For McKay, it is about putting her life second and her fellow soldiers first.
In her deployment to Iraq she had to do just that.
She and her fellow soldiers were on a road in Iraq when they came under fire from a group of hostiles.
One of her soldiers was hit, and she had to treat him on an open road while continuing to be fired upon.
“It was definitely top five of scariest moments of my life,” said McKay. “I could see every bullet skip on the ground next to me. Knowing each one was intended to hit me, but right then, the soldier I was helping came first.”
Courage is what should define a soldier, and through my experience as a brother to a female soldier, I do not believe my sister is any less qualified to be on the front lines than a man.
Not all men are fit to be in combat and the same goes for women. But there are scenarios where a woman could potentially be a more qualified combat soldier.
“If they have the ability, then they should be able to serve our country in combat,” said senior Ally Crocker.
It was outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta who pushed for the lift of the ban.
Panetta saw no difference between a male and female soldier.
“They serve, they’re wounded and they die right next to each other. The time has come to recognize that reality,” said Panetta in a public statement, according to New York Daily News.
Our military leaders have made great steps towards equality in our armed forces.
From the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to the recent allowance of women on the front lines, the U.S. is beginning to finally prove that we are not just the land of the free, but also the land of equals.
Published Feb. 13, 2013