Kathleen Parker's Easter Sunday column castigating the English Navy for sending a female sailor to war is a caveman's delight. Turning a blind eye to mountains of contrary evidence, Ms. Parker insists that military women, like Leading Seaman Faye Turney, recently famous because of her capture and release by Iran, don't belong in combat because they're just girls. She props up her antiquated sexist prejudices with a selection of Neanderthal talking points that were thrown in the trash a generation ago.Ms. Parker, like most "patriotic" right-wing columnists, has never actually served in the military. Too bad, because if she had ever worn the uniform, she would know that contemporary American women competently work alongside American men, officers and enlisted, in virtually every military specialty, on land and sea and in the air. Women drive trucks, they fire weapons and sail ships. As a female fighter jock recently observed, an F-18 doesn't care whether it's being flown by a man or a woman. And like so many of our brave men sent in harm's way, brave American women sometimes give the "last, true measure of devotion" for our beloved country.
Consider, for example, 2nd Lt. Emily S.J. Perez, a 2005 graduate of West Point, where she distinguished herself as command sergeant major. A member of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Lt. Perez became the 40th West Point graduate to die in combat since 9/11 when an IED obliterated her Humvee on Sept. 12, 2006. She was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Or take the case of Marine Capt. Jennifer Jean Harris, a top-ranked scholar-athlete in the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2000. Capt. Harris, an aviator, died when the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter she was piloting went down in flames after being struck by a missile over Anbar Province last February. Perhaps Ms. Parker would like to send a little note to the commandant suggesting that, as far as she's concerned, now that he's letting women fly his helicopters into combat, America's Marines have turned into a bunch of pansies.
If she remains unconvinced that women can fight alongside men, I'd be happy to tell her about a slender Viet Cong lady with an AK-47 I met under difficult circumstances in Quang Tri Province 40 years ago. And if the combat records of American soldiers, Marine pilots and VC guerrillas can't convince Ms. Parker that women have what it takes, then how about Jeanne d'Arc?
Not only did she lead soldiers in the Hundred Years' War, but in the fullness of time, after encountering some determined conservative opposition, she was beatified for her combat skills.
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Given Ms. Parker's belief that women should leave war to men, it was surprising she focused her criticism on one brave British woman who actually went to sea while ignoring the hypocrisy of a generation of conservative young American men who thump their chests, loudly proclaim support for President Bush's wars and then stand back and let the girls do their fighting.
Now, more than ever, these young men can redeem themselves because deployments are up, enlistments are down, and America's armed forces desperately need all the new recruits they can muster. Perhaps Ms. Parker should try to convince them that, even if they have "other priorities" like Dick Cheney's during Vietnam, it's not too late to prove their true patriotism by enlisting today.
After all, the Marines already have a lot of really good women, but they are always looking for a few more good men.
Terence L. Kindlon is a criminal defense lawyer in Albany. He once was a Marine sergeant and was wounded in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1968. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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