“First the gays, and now the broads,” exulted one friend of mine, a former Navy officer, on her Facebook feed. “The military is going to hell in a handbasket, and I couldn’t be happier.”
What this means is that about 250,000 combat jobs that women were officially banned from are now open. And yes, it means that more women will be dying.
The fight for an equal right to serve on the front lines has been a supremely righteous struggle. This was not a campaign for the corner office, the country club membership or the keys to the executive washroom. This was an argument to serve with equal risk and to acknowledge that if there is a draft, our moms, daughters, sisters and wives will likely be told to go, too.
And it underscores the idea that a man is no more expendable than a woman.
To understand why women in the military are cheering this move is to comprehend the absolute hypocrisy military women have faced for years.
Army Reserve Col. Ellen Haring, one of the women who filed a lawsuit last spring to open combat jobs to women, was elated and shocked Wednesday.
“We were getting ready for a long, drawn-out legal fight; this caught me totally by surprise,” said Haring, who lives in Northern Virginia but talked to me from the Army War College outside of Harrisburg where she works.
Haring made it clear to me that the ban wasn’t about protecting sacred XX creatures, givers of life. Her lawsuit amounted to a demand that women be given better odds at surviving combat situations, which they get into quite frequently.
According to a report last April by the Congressional Research Service, about 283,000 women have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 800 have been injured and 139 have been killed.
Haring gave me the example of 1st Lt. Ashley White, a 24-year-old from Ohio who was embedded with an Army Ranger unit in Kandahar province in Afghanistan when she and two Rangers were killed by a roadside bomb.
White was with the unit because she could do things — such as frisk women in burqas — that men couldn’t. “Women like her do this all the time,” Haring explained, when we talked about her lawsuit on Memorial Day last spring.
And there were women in supply lines, drivers, techs — all killed in combat.
What made Haring furious was that the Army was going around the no-combat rule by attaching women to these units but not giving them the same combat training that men get.
“I haven’t talked about this before, but I have a daughter serving, she’s a lieutenant in the Army,” Haring said. “So I did this for my daughter, for my granddaughter, or all the other young women who will now have opportunities I didn’t have.”