In 1781, Deborah Sampson left the weaving and teaching behind to become a soldier. The former indentured servant made her way to West Point and to Captain Webb, where she wore the uniform like the rest of the scouts scouring Manhattan and ridding America of British tyranny.
After Tories fired in Eastchester, she held her bleeding leg and in fear of a probing doctor, dug the bullet from her thigh. She risked infection, even death to maintain her disguise as a woman serving as an infantryman in the Revolutionary War.
In 1783 the war was done and she was removed from the ranks to serve in the First Massachusetts Brigade. After helping to quell a mutiny, she soon fell ill and lost consciousness. Dr. Benjamin Binney discovered her true sex and after two years of service, Deborah Sampson was honorably discharged.
Two years later, she married and eventually had three children. She died in 1827 at the age of 66 and soon after, her husband petitioned a committee to receive pay as the spouse of a soldier. The National Women’s History Museum cites the decision: “The committee concluded that the history of the Revolution ‘furnished no other similar example of female heroism, fidelity and courage’ and he was awarded the money.”
“I’ve done it. So why can I not do it? If I can physically do it, why can’t I?”
– 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Brittany Dunklee (Marines), 2015.
“We’ve never been able to do this before. This is why I joined the Marine Corps — to be able to fight and serve along[side] our brothers in arms.”
-Sgt. Danielle Beck (Marines), 2015.
“If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job — and let me be clear, I’m not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job — if they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation. … We are all committed to implementing this change without compromising readiness or morale or our warfighting capabilities.”
– Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
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