When I heard that the police officer who took down Hasan at Fort Hood was a woman, my heart swelled with pride for my gender. Not only a woman; Kimberly Denise Munley is a five foot, four inch tall firearms specialist and SWAT team member, nick-named 'Mighty Mouse' by fellow officers after she saved her partner from an assault while on duty.

Then I remembered a compelling photograph (#2 in the series) I saw recently on the front page of the New York Times. Attributed to David Furst of Agence France-Presse, the caption read: "United States Marines settled into a makeshift patrol base at the start of Operation Germinate in the restive Bhuji Bhast Pass in Farah Province, in southern Afghanistan." 

All four Marines in the photograph are women.

My heart goes out to all veterans of all wars. I could never do what they do everyday, have done and will do. I am especially proud of the women. I can't help it. When I was a kid playing 'Kill the Nazis' with my brothers and the neighbor kids, I was often relegated to being the nurse, "Because that's what girls do." It burned me.

They made it sound degrading.

If only I knew of the battlefield medical corps during the Civil War, WWI and II, Korea MASH officers, Vietnam; the WASPS flying troop carriers and supply planes behind the lines; the WACS and USO workers putting themselves in harms way doing everything and anything that needed doing.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates the total number of women veterans to be 1,824,198 as of September 2009. I'm assuming this number represents women vets alive today. The real number must be far greater. There was nothing degrading about their sacrifice, discipline and bravery.

Today women participate in every war-time job alongside men. This puts a new and special burden on our society to care for them, the men, the women and their families. We are still adjusting this new paradigm. I hope we get it right soon, for all our sakes.

Image: The Vietnam Women Veterans Memorial. Photo courtesy jcolman via Flickr