Blog of Rights

The Best Way to Honor Servicewomen This Memorial Day

By Francesca Acocella, Women's Rights Project & Elayne Weiss, Washington Legislative Office at 3:15pm

This Memorial Day, we can show the women serving in the military how grateful we are for their brave service by giving them the same opportunities to serve, and the same recognition of their service, as men. This month, the Army and the Marine Corps began to implement changes to the so-called combat exclusion rule, an outdated policy that bars women from being assigned to ground combat units, irrespective of their talents and abilities. Under modifications to the combat exclusion rule announced by the Department of Defense (DoD) earlier this year, women will now be permitted to serve in certain previously male-only positions at the battalion level and in positions that are located with, and support, combat units.

This change, while welcome, does not go far enough. American servicewomen have been serving in combat roles with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. Many have been injured, and more than 130 have been killed. Because the combat exclusion policy bars them from formally being assigned to combat units, women have been attached to the units or otherwise cast in temporary or support roles, even as they perform many of the same crucial—and dangerous— jobs as their male counterparts. While women will now be eligible for 14,000 positions that were once exclusively male, women are still barred from more than 250,000 positions on account of their sex. Women performing the same tasks as men—and facing the same dangers—deserve the same training men receive, and should be eligible for the same promotions when they return from the field. Claiming that women are incapable of the rigors of combat service is irrational when women already are meeting these demands.

The recent changes to the combat exclusion policy are steps in the right direction, but the women who are risking their lives to protect our freedoms deserve more. If you are a servicewoman or veteran and want to serve in a combat arms unit or attend a combat arms school or training program, please tell us your story.

This Memorial Day, we honor the women who have already given their lives in combat. We owe it to them to stop discrimination in the armed services.

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