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Though the military is typically seen as a male-dominated occupation and lifestyle, women throughout history have proved that stereotype to be false. Hundreds of years ago, it was forbidden for women to serve in noncombat positions. Nowadays, it isn’t unusual to see a woman to set her pursuits on military service. Through hard work and determination, women eventually earned the same rights and respect of their fellow male comrades.
One of the first women to ever (illegally) serve in the US military was Deborah Sampson. She disguised herself as a man to serve with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. After being shot in the leg, she removed the bullet herself to make sure that her gender was not revealed. Despite this, her secret eventually came out and she was honorably discharged. Additionally, after a tough fight, she also received a military pension.
When World War I and World War II arrived, women stepped up and enlisted in the Navy and Marine Corps, taking on “traditional” roles such as nursing, administration, and logistics. The need for women was immense, as hundreds of thousands of American lives were lost in both of the wars. Women eventually started to become essential to the success of national defense.
In 1948 Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. This granted women permanent status in the military and gave them access to veteran’s benefits. However, women’s advancement in the military was not yet finished.
In 1976, women were granted the right to attend the US service academies to pursue degrees in military science and eventually become officers.
Women in the Navy and Marine Corps were permitted in 1978 to pursue traditional roles on non-combat ships.
In 1991, Congress authorized women to fly in combat missions. In 1993, Congress authorized women to serve on combat ships.
After the September 11th terror attacks, the role of women in the US armed services began to change as we know it today.
In 2004 Colonel Linda McTague became the first female commander of a fighter squadron.
In 2005, amid the “War on Terror” Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester became the first female to ever be awarded the military’s third highest decoration for valor in combat, the Silver Star. Hester was an aide during an ambush and killed three insurgents.
On January 24th, 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women in combat positions. In December of 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that starting in 2016 all combat oriented jobs would be open to females. This shocked the United States. Debates arose, even though other militaries, such as the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) have successfully integrated women in combat roles for over a decade.
Here’s to the women who don’t complain about small, everyday tasks because they know they have bigger things to worry about. Here’s to the women who sacrifice sleep, freedom, social status, time with their family and friends, and their lives– daily. Women in the military are the definition of female empowerment.
So, here’s to the past, present, and future of female warriors. Their sacrifice should not be diminished, and it shall never be forgotten.