OLD BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — 200,000 women serve in the United States military now, many in combat roles.

The barriers they’ve broken through were only made possible by the women who served before them. TV 10/55’s Long Island Bureau Chief Richard Rose spoke with some who paved the way in World War II.

Heartfelt cheers erupted for the women of World War II in Nassau County inside the Armor Museum in Old Bethpage. Surrounded by the symbols of warfare, these women — all now well into their nineties — were honored for standing up to the notion that combat was for men alone.

94-year-old Barbara Kruse faced hostility when she signed up for the Marine Corps as a teenager.

“The G.I.’s were not happy about it, women in the Marine Corps? They tried their darndest to see how many of us they could break down,” she said.

Instead of breaking down, Krus went on to become a staff sergeant.

More than 400,000 women served in the US military in World War II, and about 500 lost their lives.

93-year-old retired Marine Sgt. Tess Pierce Garber says she and her husband signed up following the devastating Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, citing the example of women then fighting to create the nation of Israel.

“I said if the women in Palestine can fight for their country, then why can’t the women in America?” Garber said.

Flo Boccio pointed proudly to the vintage photo of her 95-year-old mother Josephine in her Army Air Corps uniform. She says the biggest resistance her mom faced was from her parents.

“She tried to change tradition because her family was very rigid about women going outside the family,” Boccio said.

Now, it’s all applause and banquets for these veterans appearing younger than their years and a bit surprised by the attention.

“It’s nice, I’m embarrassed,” retired Army Corporal Mary Gibson said. “I didn’t expect this.”

Proving the wisdom of this, better late than never recognition for the heroic women of the greatest generation.

While women were not allowed in combat during World War II, they were often on the front lines as doctors, nurses, and technicians.

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