The cost of freedom is very steep for those who answer the call to defend it in times of war. That cost, once born by men exclusively, is more and more being paid by countless, selfless and courageous American military women.
This is the story of one who gave her last full measure in service to that cause.
The place: Afghanistan. Women, as you will see in this video, have become more and more integral to the modern U.S. military’s fighting forces. You will meet some of those women in this short video, all of whom served in this elite capacity. You will see their integrity, their determination, and their dedication to duty in their voices and in their stories of how they served in the difficult environment of Afghanistan.
Their courage will be evident, but the courage of one of their sisters will take center stage. Her name is Ashley White.
These women were among the first to be called on to take an active role in various combat patrols in Afghanistan. It had become very apparent that, because of the ancient religious and cultural traditions of Afghanistan, American male soldiers could not touch or interrogate Afghani women when they were patrolling villages looking for Taliban fighters, or for ammunition and arms caches.
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The Marine Corps pioneered the deployment of women Marines on these patrols and their effectiveness became apparent immediately. The Army picked up on the idea and began using female soldiers in the same capacity.
But the reality of this is that these women were now directly engage in combat situations. These elite women in both the Marine Corps and the Army underwent extreme training in order to be able to meet the necessities of potential combat actions while on patrol with their units. They underwent what they called “100 hours of hell” including the physical training, the combat firearms training, and endurance training. They did daily 20-mile marches carrying 40 lbs of gear and weapons.
All passed and when deployed to Afghanistan, they began their duties working with and interrogating the Afghani women their patrols encountered.
These women, for all intents and purposes, were on the front lines, indeed, they were often behind enemy lines in combat patrols with their unit brothers.
This is where Ashley White’s story comes in. She is described by her female counterparts as short, feminine, married with children, but a real and a dedicated warrior too.
Like her sisters, White was involved in many combat patrol operations and proved to be both tough in combat and effective in her interrogation skills with the Afghani women. She was a role model for them.
These missions were secret missions and often conducted at night. On one of those missions Ashley White’s team entered a village that had been booby trapped. One of the men in the team stepped on and triggered a “daisy chain” IED.
Ashley was killed in the explosions and several were wounded.
White had been participating in these secret missions throughout her deployment. Because these operations were secret, not even her parents knew what she was doing. When she left for her deployment, her mother told her “to be careful.”
She thought that her daughter would be setting up medical facilities for the Army unit.
Her daughter’s response was, “I’m with the best of the best. I’ll be fine.”
White’s parents did not know what she actually was doing over there until her flag draped casket arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
As you watch this video, remember that women are carrying their load in their respective units in many of the most dangerous places in the world at this time. They are paying the costs of freedom with diligence, ability and dedication and, yes, even with their lives. These women are not only willing and able to do so, but proud to be a part of their units in this fight.
The Veterans Site honors and deeply respects these women warriors for their desire to serve, to give of themselves for a cause larger than themselves. They are role models for all of us. We also send our deepest condolences to the family of Ashley White.
We will never forget her name, her courage, or her sacrifice. We promise, too, to never forget her now Gold Star family.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.