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Fighting discrimination in the armed forces: Female military members sue to serve in combat

BY REBECCA SHEEHAN
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

Women_optThe greatest honor you could have is to serve your country. To be on the front lines fighting for what you believe in so your family can live freely and prosper in the country you so dearly love. Army, Navy, Marines and the Air Force they all dedicate their lives each and every day so we can live free. Sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers all dedicating their lives for their countries.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reports that four female service members filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco, challenging the Pentagon’s ban on women serving in combat. The Associated Press notes that this is the second lawsuit in this year alone putting pressure on the 1994 rule that bars women from being assigned to ground combat units. These specific units are considered to be smaller, more dangerous and most times are in battle for longer periods of time.

"I'm trying to get rid of the ban with a sharp poke," U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt stated to the Associated Press, who is one of the four women at the hands of this lawsuit. Hunt was injured in 2007 when her Humvee ran over an improvised explosive device in Iraq.

Women have been an integral part of the Armed Forces since they first enlisted back in the late 1940’s and currently cover 14 percent of the 1.4 million active personnel. And as of right now, the only thing women are excluded from are serving in combat. According to the four women pushing the envelope, if the ban is not listed they will continue to get overlooked for promotions and advancements which are open to men.

Marine Corps Capt. Zoe Bedell, who is also involved in the lawsuit, left active duty because of the combat exclusion policy and was extremely frustrated that her advancement in the Marines was blocked by her inability to serve directly in combat units.

"The military is the last place where you are allowed to be discriminated against because of you gender," she stated to the Associated Press.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the Defense Department was making strides in allowing more women to experience combat, he said at a Washington, D.C., news conference. The Associated Press reports that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has opened about 14,500 combat positions to women.

American Civil Liberties Union Ariela Migdal, who represents the four women and has worked in cases dealing with women’s rights and gender-based work place discrimination, said Panetta's actions weren't enough only calling for an end to the combat ban.

"These tweaks and minor changes on the margins do a disservice to all the women who serve," Panetta said to the Associated Press. "It falls short. It is not enough."

Air National Guard Major Mary Jennings Hegar, the final women involved in the lawsuit, sustained shrapnel wounds in 2009 when she exchanged fire on the ground in Afghanistan after her Medevac helicopter was shot down.

 

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