Issue over whether females should serve on the front lines divides Cuyahoga County veterans

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio - The U.S. military's move to lift the ban on women serving in combat roles prompted mixed reaction from local veterans.

"I cannot even fathom having to worry about a woman with me. I don't care how tough she is. She's still a woman to me," said former Marine Corps Maj. Lawrence Bender, of Middleburg Heights.

"Are women warriors? Can they be warriors? Absolutely," said Wendy Moore, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Desert Storm. "Can they be lethal? Yes."

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced Thursday it's ending its policy on excluding women from fighting on the front lines. The move ends a nearly two-decade ban on females in combat.  President Barack Obama issued a statement shortly after the announcement supporting the new policy.

"This milestone reflects the courageous and patriotic service of women through more than two centuries of American history and the indispensable role of women in today's military," Obama said.

Moore, who owns Moore than a Barber Shop in North Royalton, said she'd consider combat herself under certain conditions.

"Women approach things tactically different," she said.

Moore said the military needs to carefully analyze how women perform in combat and assign missions to them accordingly. She also strongly opposes males and females together in crossfire.

Bender was outraged about the military's move and stressed that it's a potentially huge national security risk.

"It's inconceivable as a country," he said.

The decorated military veteran was most concerned about the instinct of males to protect their female counterparts in combat instead of focusing on the enemy. He's also skeptical of hostage situations.

"They (women) become victims immediately upon capture," said Bender.

"I'm not saying they're not capable of adjusting. But it's a new ballgame, you're walking on very thin ice," said Jim Karecki, a Vietnam Air Force veteran from North Royalton.

Once the policy is changed, the Department of Defense reportedly said combat jobs will be assessed and the plan will be rolled out in phases. It will also examine physical standards and general-neutral accommodations, especially in the Army and Marine Corps.

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