Women Fighting and Dying in War, Despite Combat Exclusion Policy

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Today, women make up about 15 percent of active-duty service members; 18 percent of National Guard and reserves; 10 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans; and 10 percent of those who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters.

The idea of women serving in ground combat infantry units has been controversial throughout U.S. history. Arguments against women serving in combat center around the physiological and purported emotional differences between men and women, as well as the interaction between men and women that could distract from a mission.

Specifically, opponents argue that women are physically weaker than men -- especially in upper body strength, and behave more emotionally than men. Also, sexual or romantic feelings that arise could affect unit cohesiveness or focus on a mission.

Chase said those arguments also do not reflect reality.

"I served with men that were so macho and overprotective, then when it really actually got sticky, they weren't worried about me, the training kicked in, everybody did what they were supposed to do. We were professionals."

Chase agrees there will have to be a thorough review on whether to rescind the policy, and that rescinding without a plan as to how to implement changes would be premature. But, she added, "It's long past time to revise the current policy so that it accurately reflects the capacity with which women have and will continue to serve in our armed forces. It gives combatant commanders the ability to truly build the most cohesive, well-trained and effective teams for their respective missions."

Jimenez, who still deals with the visible and invisible wounds inflicted from the attack, hopes that one day, when people think Marine, it won't always be a man they picture.

"No one will ever look at me like I was a Marine," she said. "When I tell people that I was a former Marine, they usually say, 'Are you serious?'

"As long as people acknowledge that we were there too," she said.

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