Women in Combat: One Newspaper’s Photographic Tribute

The Christian Science Monitor notes that even though women technically cannot serve in combat the lines between that rule  and their roles they fill has blurred.

Here are a few of the photos the newspaper shares in tribute to the military woman’s role.

Tammy Duckworth, former assistant secretary of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (l., at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.),lost her legs in combat while piloting a Black Hawk helicopter. “When I’m asked if the country is ready for women in combat, I look down at where my legs used to be and think, ‘Where do you think this happened, a bar fight?’ ” Photo courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor.

Though barred from combat, women in military service do have de facto roles. the photographic tribute includes 15 photos of women who have achieved high ranks despite the handicap of not serving in combat – technically.

Capt. Sara Rodriguez of the Army 101st Airborne Division splashes water on her face during expert field medical badge testing at Fort Campbell, Ky. Women can be “attached” to infantry units but not assigned to them– a policy that puts women in combat but never officially recognizes them. Photo courtesy of Christian Science Monitor.

Most military women will tell you that they do not seek special standards just the opportunity to serve and receive the credit for that service. You can see the full slide show HERE.

Air Force Maj. Allison Black was known as the ‘Angel of Death’ among Taliban fighters because it was her voice calling in airstrikes in the early days of the war in Afghanistan. “As a woman,” she says, “I would be devastated if any man gave up information to protect me [if captured by the enemy]. I would expect to be whooped up on … just like the guys.” Photo by the U.S. Air Force, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor.

You can read the Christian Science Monitor’s article HERE that looks at women in the military.

Military Friendly Employers – ESGR Looking for Nominations

Every year the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) selects the top employers in the nation to receive a “Patriot Award” for hiring military service members, their spouses and for developing  supportive policies for members of the National Guard and Reserves.

Service members can nominate their employer online HERE.

Military spouses can also nominate their employer online HERE.

All that’s needed is to explain why your employer deserves to be recognized at the local, state and possibly national level. The local ESGR committee reviews the explanations when selecting nominees for higher-level awards.

Every employer nominated will receive a Patriot Award certificate and accompanying lapel pin. Some examples of what supportive employers do:

  • Participates in ESGR programs like a Statement of Support signing.
  • Sponsors a company Guard & Reserve recognition day.
  • Features Guardsmen and Reservists on Company bulletin boards, in newsletters or at meetings.
  • Maintains contact with Guard & Reserve employees while they are on annual training or mobilized.
  • Has a published military mobilization policy.
  • Provides pay differential during periods of military training.
  • Provides pay differential during mobilizations.
  • Provides paid military leave.
  • Provides continuation of insurance and monetary benefits during mobilizations.

You can learn more about the ESGR Patriot Awards HERE.


Top 6 Findings from Study of Women Serving in the Military

A cadet at the graduation ceremony for U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., listens to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' remarks, May 23, 2009. Of the 970 cadets, 144 were women. Photo courtesy of Army.mil.

Here are some key findings from the Pew Research Center study of Women in the U.S. Military. Seven times more women are now serving and make up 14 percent of the U.S. Forces compared to only 2 percent in 1973 when military service became voluntary.

The study found there are no differences between women and men in the military in some areas:

  • Women are just as likely to be officers
  • Women joined the armed services for similar reasons
  • Post 9/11 veterans, women and men, have similar experiences of struggles and rewards when returning to civilian life

There are areas where women differ when compared to men in the military:

  • A greater share of military women are black
  • A smaller share of military women are married
  • Post 9/11 era women veterans are less likely to have served in combat and more likely to be critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You can read the full report HERE.

Veterans of Six Different Wars: Why They Served

A LIFE IN UNIFORM: Powell in 1963 on his first tour (of two) in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Parade Magazine.

Former Secretary of State and retired four-star Army general, Colin Powell, writes about his military service and the lasting bonds with his “military family” in this week’s Parade Magazine.

By Gen. Colin L. Powell

I became an army lieutenant when I was 21, and more than five decades later, the people I knew in my early days—from college ROTC and my first assignment—I still know. I think of them as family. In every assignment since, I’ve found a new family, but each time it’s also felt like an old family. And even though I’ve been retired from the military for 18 years, I’ve never left that family.

You can read the full article HERE and also read the stories of six veterans of six different wars. Or watch their video below:

Veteran: How Do You Define Who Is a Vet?

Alison Derr, a Navy Veteran.

Does a military service member have to experience combat or be part of a life-risking mission to earn the title Veteran? Is it fair to compare the sacrifice of veterans by service branch,  by deployments or the number of years of service? Email me at bobrien@wusf.org with your definition of who is a military Veteran. Send your response by November 9th so  I can publish your answers on Veterans Day.

In a blog entry for the VA blog VAntage, Navy Veteran Alison Derr explains why she’s a little uneasy being called a Vet after four years at sea.

Alison Derr: The Definition of a Veteran

There are very few words that catch me quite like “Veteran”. It’s such a short word, but in today’s world, it means so much and identifies a person in just seven letters. Yesterday, I attended a local job fair that I thought was just for Veterans. However, I learned that it wasn’t specifically for Vets, but that it was sponsored and coordinated by a local Veterans support organization. The job fair was a major bust for me, but I did go with an ulterior motive and that was to support a local Veterans appreciation event held in my county every year.

After I spoke and gave my presentation to promote the event, I hung around to answer any questions from the group. And a few people did, in fact, stay behind to talk to me. A father asked if his teenage daughter, who is contemplating joining the military after high school, could contact me (“Of course!” was my response), another lady introduced herself as a family friend and a young guy who looked like a former Marine asked if he could take a pamphlet. But of everyone who stopped to chat, a very elderly man came by and our conversation went like this:

“Excuse me miss, but I just have to ask….are YOU a Veteran?!” he asked with astonishment in his voice.

“Yes, sir,” I answered. “I served four years in the Navy.”

“I’m a Sailor too!” he said through laughter. “I served during WWII on PT boats!”

You can  read the full VAntage blog entry by Alison Derr HERE.

What Should Civilians Say to Combat Veterans?

Army Staff Sgt. Adam A. Wontrop, a member of the 744th Ordnance Company’s explosive ordnance disposal team from Clarksville, Tenn., tries to uncover some of a command wire located by soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson / Army

“Thank you for your service” is a phrase commonly heard by many in the military. Yet, some combat veterans are uncomfortable when that gratitude is expressed – unless they perceive it as genuine. Here’s an explanation that I found on Military.com.

By McLean Bennett – Knight Ridder/Tribune

Lucas Johnson doesn’t want well-wishers thanking him for his military service in Afghanistan. The reason is that most people simply can’t understand what he’s been through in that war-torn, destitute land halfway around the world from Wisconsin.

But on a dreary, cloudy Friday morning at downtown Eau Claire’s Phoenix Park — just three days after he returned from a deployment with the U.S. Army’s bomb squad — someone approached Johnson with what he felt was a genuine thank-you.

“Thank you for protecting our country,” said a diminutive Flint Parisi, a 5-year-old kindergartner from Altoona. The two shook hands, and the battle-tested soldier showed Flint his Army helmet, which dwarfed the youngster’s small head.

“When a kid, a child, walks up to me and says, ‘Thank you for serving our country,’ I like that,” said Johnson, 25.

You can read the full article HERE.

My questions to all military members, veterans and their families:

  • How do you want civilians to acknowledge your service?
  • When is it appropriate to thank you and when is it not?
  • What is the most memorable exchange you’ve had with a stranger?
  • What comments have been hurtful or thoughtless?

My questions for civilians:

  • How do you greet members of the military who are strangers?
  • Do you avoid greeting military members because you don’t know what to say?
  • Describe your most memorable interaction with a military member.

Add  a comment below or send me a direct email at bobrien@wusf.org.

Less than 1 Percent: Who Serves in the U.S. Armed Forces

Darryl St. George, a Navy corpsman with Weapons Company of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., reads a book as the sun rises over a temporary base nicknamed "Patrol Base Suc" in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. Photo by David Gilkey/NPR.

Meet a former history teacher who now saves Marine lives on Afghanistan’s front-lines or a Marine on patrol who worries that American’s interest is falling away.

All week, National Public Radio has been broadcasting the stories of individuals who joined the military to fight in America’s wars. Family tradition, patriotism, a sense of purpose – there many reasons for military service cited in  NPR series,  “Who Serves.”

Beyond the personal stories is the large picture, NPR offers a graphic look By the Numbers: Today’s Military. There are maps that show where military members are stationed. And, there are plenty of graphs like one on gender. The Air Force has the lowest ratio of men to women, 4 males for every 1 female. The Marines have the highest ratio, 15.1 males for every 1 female.

If you’re in military, why do you serve? Email me your story at bobrien@wusf.org  if you’d like to share it on the blog.

If you’re a civilian, did you consider joining and what contributed to your decision not to? Share your story by emailing me at bobrien@wusf.org.

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