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Remembering Women Soldiers on Memorial Day

In 1994, the prohibition against women serving in combat units of the U.S. Armed Forces was lifted, and it has been U.S. policy to exclude women from ground combat units.

However, in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. women soldiers have participated in house to house searches, and as truck drivers and guards in resupply convoys and escort missions. Most women soldiers who have died in military service in the past ten years have been killed as a result of hostile action.

Women soldiers of the United States and other nations are currently serving their countries with bravery and honor all over the world. More than 300,000 U.S. and Coalition Forces women soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of them in harm’s way.

U.S. and Coalition Forces fought in Iraq to remove brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, from power. They fought in Iraq and Syria to remove the Islamic Caliphate, and tried to protect helpless people in the Middle East. Today, U.S. and Coalition Forces are serving in Afghanistan, trying to maintain some semblance of peace and stability in that country.

More than 800 U.S. and Coalition women service members have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. One hundred and ten women soldiers have died from combat and non combat wounds while serving in Iraq, and others have died serving in Afghanistan.
A stand up and cheer example of bravery and honor is the story of Corporal Megan Leavey, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the fighting in Iraq. Megan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2003, and was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, where she was paired with Rex, known as Sergeant Rex, a military working dog.

Corporal Leavy and Rex were a Military Police K9 team. They served two combat deployments in Iraq. They are combat veterans of the bitter fighting in Fallujah in 2005, and Ramadi in 2006. Megan and Rex were wounded together in the detonation of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in 2006.

During her service in the U.S. Marine Corps, Corporal Megan Leavey earned the Navy and Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon, the Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat “V” for heroism, and the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat. Her other awards include the U.S. Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, and the Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. Megan and Rex are the subjects of a 2017 biographical film, entitled “Megan Leavy.”

Following her completion of service in 2007, Megan petitioned the U.S. Marine Corps to adopt Rex, after Rex had developed a facial palsy that ended his bomb sniffing duties. They were reunited in April 2012. Unfortunately, Rex died eight months later on December 22, 2012.

For many people in the United States, Memorial Day is just another day off. The life and death stories of honorable men and women, the pride of our nation, slip quietly away, unnoticed and unknown. For me, it is a day to remember those who have gone before us, into harm’s way. Today, I remember those who didn’t come back. Today, I pray for the blessing of peace for our turbulent world.

Happy Memorial Day, America. Blessings to you, and to everyone you love, and to everyone who loves you. Blessings to every woman soldier I have known, and to every woman soldier I hope to meet someday. — Love, Don