One of the things I’ve never been able to understand is the degree to which many people, in and out of uniform, still harbor doubts and resentment about women serving in the military. In my experience in the Marine Corps, I felt that the only differences that exist between men and women insofar as their military duties are concerned were those bestowed upon them by nature. By this, I mean things primarily of a physical nature, such as heavy lifting and pregnancy. Still these only apply to purely physical tasks that one would readily encounter in the civilian world where men and women have long worked side by side.
Still, many men (and some women too) feel that women don’t belong in uniform except in a purely supportive role. Some of the reasoning behind this are comments like, “Are the American people ready to see women as POW’s, exposed to the brutal treatment that often entails?” With the experiences of both Gulf War I and our current conflict in mind, I think the answer to that question in particular is a resounding, “YES.” Clearly, the American public did not fall apart at the sight or knowledge of female soldiers as prisoners of war.
This then leads to the issue of women in combat. The questions asked about whether a woman could not only stand her ground against the enemy, but also possess the fortitude to endure the rigors of war have been proven with resounding clarity by the actions of PFC Jessica Lynch. She represents the absolute embodiment of the type of person (man or woman) that I searched for on a daily basis, as a former Marine Corps recruiter. When her column came under attack by the Iraqis she did not falter, she held steady. When the enemy advanced on her position, she did not shirk from her duties; she manned her weapon and fired it until her ammunition was exhausted, killing several Iraqi soldiers. Fortunately, through the combined efforts of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, we got her back alive.
Her actions reflect the highest ideals of the US military and the American spirit. Most importantly though, they are undeniable proof that not only can women handle any job in the military, but that they are now an integral part of it.
Scott Wacholtz is a senior majoring in political science. Anyone interested in enlisting in the Marine Corps can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org