Sister of fallen female soldier on allowing women in combat: 'I think she would be glad'

CREATED Jan 24, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women in combat, opening 238,000 jobs jobs to women in the military.

Panetta said not everyone can meet the qualifications of being a combat soldier, but everyone is entitled to the chance.

“If they can meet the qualifications of the job, they should have the right to serve regardless of creed, color, gender or sexual orientation."

There was mixed reaction to word the ban had been lifted. But the sister of a soldier who died in action said the decision is long overdue.

“I just don't agree with it in combat,” said Walter Pufahl, a veteran.

Pufahl fought in Korea. He said he's not quite comfortable with the idea of women fighting on the front lines.

“It’s a demanding job,” said Pufahl. “I'm not saying women can't do it, but I don't know if the average women could.”

Defense Secretary Panetta announced the end of the ban on women serving in combat. It comes following a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq where women have often been exposed to fighting.

“I think she would be glad that they're acknowledging women in the military and the combat roles that they do,” said Charity Verre.

Verre's sister, Specialist Michelle Witmer, was the first woman in the history of the Wisconsin National Guard to die in combat. The New Berlin woman was killed in Iraq in 2004. Verre said those who can do the job deserve equality.

“Of course men and women are built differently, physically there are some things men are likely able to do, but some women can do them,” she said. “Its just not a gender issue, it's if you meet the requirements you do, if you don't you don't.”

Panetta directed the military to implement the changes by the middle of May.