|From The Morning Call mcall.com
Ashly L. Moyer, killed in Iraq, laid to rest in Arlington
Emmaus graduate, 21, was the 71st woman to die there in four years of combat.
By Josh Drobnyk Call Washington Bureau
| Jane Drumheller rubbed her hand atop the urn that held her daughter's ashes. She kissed her palm and touched it to the vessel once more. She was saying goodbye.
Under skies that wept a biting rain, Army Sgt. Ashly L. Moyer, a 21-year-old Emmaus High School graduate, was laid to rest Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
She was the 21st person from the Lehigh Valley region, or with ties to the region, to die in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She was also the second woman from the region killed in combat. Another died of non-combat injuries.
The role of women in the U.S. military -- until recently they had been kept away from hostilities as much as possible ? has changed dramatically during the two wars. Now they are in far more dangerous positions.
Moyer, assigned to the 630th Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion, died March 3 when insurgents detonated a bomb that engulfed her armored patrol vehicle in flames. She was the 71st female service member killed in Iraq since the war began four years ago. Eleven have died since Operation Enduring Freedom began in Afghanistan in 2001.
Combined, 470 women have been wounded in the two wars, the vast majority in Iraq.
''This war has simply been staggering in the number of women killed in such a short time,'' said Judith Matteson, director of the Army Women's Museum in Richmond, Va.
While hundreds of women lost their lives in both World Wars I and II, almost all died in accidents and from pandemics, Matteson said. Only 16 women were killed by enemy fire in the Second World War. Fourteen were killed in the Korean War. In Vietnam, enemy fire killed one woman. And in the Persian Gulf War, 16 women were killed, mostly in accidents, she said.
''The roles are changing,'' Matteson said.
The most recent formal role change came in 1994, when Congress broadened the scope of what jobs female service members could perform. The risk of capture would no longer be a factor in where women could be assigned, even as they still would not be able to assume roles that would put them in ''direct combat'' on the ground.
That move opened up hundreds of positions previously closed to women. Long gone were the days when women were just nurses, clerks and telephone operators. Now they were flying the planes and helicopters, serving as military police officers and driving armored Humvees. And when two wars came along that blurred the lines of direct combat, women were thrust into a deeper war zone than they'd ever been before.
Some argue it has gone too far. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, argues that women have been unfairly cast into more dangerous positions than they might have anticipated when signing up for service. While she supports women in the military, she argues that combat presents conditions that are too physically demanding for women.
''At the very least, [the military] should inform young women of what their job description involves,'' said Donnelly, who served on the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces in 1992.
The Pentagon counters that enlisted soldiers understand the risks they face.
''If [you agree that] a person joining the military does so with the understanding they may have to go to war at some point in their military career, how can you say they don't understand the risks?'' Army Maj. Stewart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.
The combat deaths of the two women from the region -- Moyer and Army Sgt. Jennifer M. Hartman, who died in September 2006 ? offer different vantage points from which to view the debate.
Moyer's father, Michael Moyer, said his daughter belonged right alongside the men in Iraq.
''Ashly didn't think of herself as anything but equal if not better than any man,'' said Moyer, whose parents were both Marines in World War II and who also served as a Marine. ''She was there with the guys and she was just as aggressive as any of the guys were, if not more so.''
He added: ''Women over there are just as capable as the men are, there is no doubt in my mind.''
Seven months before Moyer died, Hartman, a 21-year-old Tamaqua Area High School graduate, was killed in Iraq in a suicide truck bombing.
Her mother, Bernice Hartman, said she never would have allowed her daughter to sign up with the Army at 17 if she'd known Jennifer would have been sent to Iraq. And even though her daughter enjoyed her time in Iraq as a cook for other soldiers and a driver of an armored patrol vehicle, she doubts Jennifer would have signed up either.
''If she would have been told the truth, I don't think she would have signed,'' said Hartman, of West Penn Township.
But Hartman stopped short of arguing that women alone are too close to combat in Iraq. ''They are all too young,'' she said. ''They are barely 18. I don't think they are trained well enough, men or women. They are kids.''
As the rain slapped the umbrellas of the dozens of family members and friends gathered around Moyer's grave site Friday afternoon, an Army guard folded two American flags and presented them to Michael Moyer and Jane Drumheller. Family members held pink and red roses.
Moyer became the 317th person killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington.
''She was my little girl,'' her father said. ''I'm proud of her. I'm going to miss her to death. My soul is missing.''