U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Thursday the military ban on women serving in combat will be lifted. YNN's Kaitlyn Lionti spoke with those who've served our country in various wars about what they think of expanding women's opportunities to serve.
CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. -- World War II Veteran Helen Jacob joined the Army in 1943, and began a lifetime of service to her country and community.
Thursday, Congressman Brian Higgins presented Jacob with several military medals and gave her the news that servicewomen of today will be able to serve in combat situations.
"If I had the opportunity, I would go. And I would be happy to serve, that's what I did, how many years ago? I served, I put up my hand, and I was ready to go," said Jacob.
Congressman Higgins says in both Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 800 women have been wounded and more than 130 killed in action.
And those who've served recently say this change brings to light the roles military women are already playing.
"The reality of the situation is, females are already in the front lines. You might not hear about it as often, but like myself included, I was out on patrols when I was there," said Sergeant Reya Russell of the U.S. Army Reserve.
"They're finally starting to come out and admit that female soldiers are on the front line and belong on the front line, just like everyone else," said Chris Kreiger, an Iraq War veteran.
Both Kreiger and Russell say military men won't all welcome their female comrades into combat with open arms, and often hold them to lower standards.
"My time in Iraq, I have seen it first hand that a lot of the soldiers get so focused in on protecting the female that it takes their focus off of the mission and can put a big damper on things," said Kreiger.
But they think if men and women go through the same training, they deserve the same opportunities to serve.
"A soldier's a soldier, whether it's female or male," said Kreiger.
Russell said, "I think for myself, I would definitely accept the challenge. I think it would be interesting just to see kind of a different aspect."
And give military women more chances to advance in their career.
"It will open a lot of opportunities, a lot of opportunities for them to get themselves up there in rank, by leading combat troops, things like that, does open the door for a lot of people," said Jane Cooley, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War.