Women in Combat: A Mother's View

Sgt. Devin Snyder was one of four soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in June 2011. The 20-year-old military policewoman from Cohocton, NY, was one of 152 women that have died while in support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. They may not have had combat roles, but a majority of them were casualties of hostile situations in combat zones.

As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles, Sgt. Snyder's mother, Dineen Snyder, said her daughter would be glad.

“That was one of the things that really upset her,” Snyder said. “That women couldn’t pick up a weapon and go out there and be infantry or artillery. That bothered her a great deal.”

Women make up about 15 percent of the armed services. The Defense Department says more than 280,000 women have deployed in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.

One of those was 28-year-old Robynn Murray. She was the subject of the documentary film Poster Girl, which chronicled her struggle with post traumatic stress disorder. In Iraq, she says she worked as a machine gunner, a job not typically assigned to a woman. For her lifting the ban now rings hollow.

“For me having served in a combat role in 2004 and having been on hundreds of patrols and missions, and having been assigned to work with a cavalry and an infantry unit and having been on quote-unquote the front lines, it kind of seemed empty,” Murray said. “Oh congratulations, you're finally legal to do what you were already doing.”

While former Intelligence officer Rae Ann Pae is pleased women will be able to serve in more combat roles, she says the military should keep the same physical standards in place for men and women.

“Nothing should be made more difficult than it would be for anyone else, but at the same time no standards should be laxed [sic] just to prove that women can come through,” Pae said.

Snyder said her daughter, Devin, chose to work with the military police because it was the closest to a combat role that was available to her at the time.

“Women are getting stronger. Their will is stronger. They want that challenge the same as some men,” Snyder said.

With additional reporting by Christine Streich. 

Hear more about the experiences of women veterans and listen to Richard Hake's full interview with Dineen Snyder above.