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At an outpost in Dover, Delaware on the Dover Air Force Base, two female officers of the United States Marine Corps met one morning in April. She entered with swift movements. She stood at attention in front of her boss, Major General Magdalene McCorkell.
“Good morning, ma’am,” Lieutenant Colonel Hendra Rizzano said.
“Good morning, Colonel. What seems to be the issue?”
“Ma’am, I’ve been considering a transition from—”
“Yes, a transition from the air wing back to being a combat officer.”
The general took a second. She shook her head and sighed.
“But we need you here. You’ve been doing such a good job with your junior Marines. Why this change of heart all of a sudden?”
“I changed my mind because I want to be a staunch advocate of women Marines who can fight alongside their male counterparts, again.”
“How do you think that I got here?”
“I played by the boys’ rules. I fell in line with everything that was asked of me. I never served in combat and you see these two stars on my collar, don’t you?”
“There’s nothing more to be said. You’ve done more than me. You’ve got that CAR on your chest. In my day, we wouldn’t even had dreamed that a woman would receive a Combat Action Ribbon for her efforts on the battleground. We stayed in the offices, even though we trained the same way as the guys.”
“And that is exactly what I’m fighting against. I want women Marines to know that they are equipped with the same or better stamina, fortitude, and tenacity while on the battlefield as those men.”
“But we’re women,” Magdalene said. “The only thing that we should be riding are desks. I know that you’ve got your experience, hell, you’ve got a perfect ASVAB, a perfect PFT, you shoot expert in rifle and pistol, and you’ve got that CAR. I can see why you want to change. You want a bit more action?”
“You want respect?”
“Only if it’s earned,” Hendra said.
“Then stay in the position that you’re in, now. You’ve proven yourself time and time again. Don’t rock the LAV.”
Hendra shook her head and pushed her fingers across her neatly pressed Service Alpha skirt.
“Ma’am ... I am only making this request to further my career. It is the most selfish thing that I can do. It is the only right thing that I can do.”
“I remember when selfishness was a vice amongst the ranks. You didn’t raise up from being a second lieutenant to where you are today because of selflessness?” Magdalene asked.
“No,” Hendra said. “I know for a fact that egoism has brought me to this glorious day. That every Marine, male or female, should fight for their own selfish lives. That’s what’s gotten me here today and what qualifies me for the position that I am seeking.”
Magdalene looked like a whipped puppy.
“But we need you here. If you go back to the battlefield, there’s no telling what may happen to you.”
Hendra grew rigid and her voice turned to ice. “Ma’am I’m more than aware of the possible dangers that come with being a combat officer. My time in combat afforded me with the perspective that there is a hierarchy of values that can be altered in a matter of seconds. I came here as an air winger to further grow my opportunities and seek new horizons. I think that I have exhausted my stay here and wish to return to guiding my Marines into battle.”
“You’re not approved.”
“You will address me as ma’am, Colonel Rizzano.”
“Ma’am, but that is unjust.”
“Oh, I will accept your resignation letter no later than a week from now.”
Hendra didn’t show any signs of pain although it wracked her body. She stood to her feet and addressed her boss.
“Thank you, ma’am. Permission to be excused.”
“Permission granted,” Magdalene said.
“Good morning,” Hendra said.
“Good morning,” Magdalene said.
Hendra left the office unfazed by the major general. She already had in her mind an appeal.