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US Military Celebrates Women in the Armed Forces

On March 8th, International Women's Day, events worldwide celebrate the achievements of women, past and present.

Leading up to that day, the U.S. military is celebrating the women who have served in the United States armed forces.

A new documentary on women in the military premiered this week at Arlington National Cemetary's Women's Memorial.

The role of women in the military has often been overlooked. Documentary film producer Susan Sherwood wanted to tell their story.

"Military women are very proud of their service" she said. "They take great pride in serving America."

Her documentary, called "Women in the Military: Willing, Able, Essential," tells the story of American women in battle up to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sherwood praised, "They are just incredible women. They are competent. They are able. They're proud."

Before the 20th century, women were not officially in the military. They were volunteer nurses, cooks and laundry women.

A few, disguised as men, were in combat.

In World War II, they served in areas of combat but mostly as nurses and in clerical positions.

Currently, some 200 thousand American women are on active duty.

Although they are excluded from the infantry, armored corps and special forces, they serve as military police, manning humvees and guarding truck convoys.

The documentary portrays women in uniform over several generations.

Retired Major General Jeanne Holm attended the screening. She enlisted in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps during World War II and was the first woman to achieve the rank of Major General.

"We looked at it as an opportunity to serve our country in a time of war," said Holm. "Everyone was very motivated to do what had to be done, whatever it was."

Vernice Armour became the first female African-American combat pilot in 2001.

She says when she joined the Marine Corps, it was a new frontier for women.

"But my Granny always said anything worth having is worth working for," said Armour.

Retired Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of the most highly decorated women in the U.S. military. She helped create the Women's military memorial at Arlington Cemetary.

Vaught stated, "Women will continue to advance...There will be four-star generals other than in the army over time. There are big things that are yet to take place."

Vaught says she is looking forward to the day when America elects a female commander-in-chief, in other words a female president of the United States.