A Visit to the Women's War Memorial

Congressional debate and the death toll in Iraq have cast fresh attention on the role of women in combat. What do visitors to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Washington, D.C., think?

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery attracts many veterans. They often speak in hushed tones as they view the displays. This Memorial Day weekend, a bagpiper was playing as NPR's Jesse Baker spoke to some of the women there about their own service and about women's role in the military.

(Soundbite of bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace")

Ms. DONNA McKEBNEY FARRELL(ph): My name is Donna McKebney Farrell, and my daughter is US Marine Corps Rachel Marie Farrell(ph). She served--after she came out of boot camp, she was sent to the Pentagon, and we thought, `Oh, isn't this wonderful? She's 19; she's safe.' And she was there on September 11th. Her office was destroyed. Fortunately, she was not in the office at the time, was in a hall, and was grabbed by an officer in the Navy who said, `No, no, don't go that way. Follow me. We need to get out of here.' I understand as a culture we're not very good at sending our daughters to war. We shouldn't be very good at sending our sons or our daughters to war. I'm very blessed not to be a Gold Star mother. I look at these pictures and, with every man and woman who's gone, there are Gold Star parents who are left, and it shouldn't be that way.

Specialist AMY BURNS(ph) (US Army): My name is Specialist Amy Burns. I'm in the United States Army and I'm a military police officer. I served in Iraq for a year in Baghdad. We ended up losing a soldier. That's why I'm here today to see the memorial. It was a long, hard year. I'm a little bothered by trying to take us out because I know we make a difference.

Colonel TERRI JURICK(ph) (US Air Force): I'm Colonel Terri Jurick, and I serve in the Air Force, and I'm stationed here at the Pentagon. I never even really look at myself as a woman in the military; I feel I'm just serving like everyone else.

Ms. DONNA RANDALL(ph) (Former, US Marine Corps): My name is Donna Randall. I served in the United States Marine Corps. I'm more than willing to serve wherever I can that I'm not a hindrance to my team. I mean, there is limitations that we have as far as load bearing and certain jobs that I don't think that we necessarily are as capable of doing in some instances. But as far as should we be kept from combat simply because we're females, no. We're no more precious than males, than our counterparts.

Ms. SHARON THOMPSON(ph) (US Air Force): I'm Sharon Thompson, in the United States Air Force, and I've been in five years and still serving. As a nurse--and most of our nursing service is women--we have to be where our troops are. So you can't pull us out of harm's way and not have someone there to take care of our troops. So anywhere that their boots are in the sand, anywhere that they're getting hurt, they have to let us be there with them.

(Soundbite of ending notes of "Amazing Grace")

HANSEN: Voices from the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, at 22 minutes before the hour.

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