MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A dozen female warriors who were instrumental in breaking down barriers to allow women to serve in all combat roles were honored in Nassau County Wednesday.

TV 10/55 Long Island Bureau Chief Richard Rose reported Army Reserve Sgt. Phoebe Ervin was honored for her three tours of duty in Iraq, dating back to 1990.

Ervin led a platoon of soldiers into combat, and she said she would prefer to go into a foxhole with fellow women.

“We can deal with any pain without complaining about it, and we know what we need to do,” Ervin said. “Sorry men, but I’ll take my women any day.”

Last week, a congressional committee approved having women register for any future drafts, and five months ago, the Pentagon approved allowing women to assume all combat roles.

It’s a major step forward in gender equality, although these female warriors said there are still double-standards in the military.

“They want you to be as hardcore and ferocious as the males, but still present yourself as a lady,” Lance Cpl. Crystal Ventrelli said.

Retired Cmdr. Phyllis Zagano, who first joined the Navy 40 years ago, said the rise of women in the military reflects their general struggle in the wider society.

“I don’t know how much it’s changed. I think there’s still a glass ceiling for any women in any field of endeavor, but I think women are making their mark and they have more and more women in senior ranks,” Zagano said.

There are 35,000 women officers helping lead the U.S. military, and regardless of gender, Ervin said they face the same combat traumas, an anguish she realized each time she told her young daughter she was headed back into battle.

“She used to look at me and say, ‘Mom, are you going to come back?’ It really used to get to me, not knowing. I was struggling with post-traumatic disorder,” Ervin said.

Ervin said she and her daughter are writing a play about what they overcame in order to serve their country.

In all, more than 200,000 women serve in the U.S. military.


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