LA CROSSE, Wis. - Many female service members and veterans across the country are celebrating the military's ban on women in combat being lifted.
Army veteran Sandi Valentine is one of them.
Her passion for the military started when she was very young.
"I knew I was going to go in when I was 5 years old," said Valentine.
She enlisted as a teenager. Back then, in the late 1980s, the Army only gave her one day of training in hand-to-hand combat.
"There were women that were so capable that you couldn't believe that they can't do that job just because they were women," said Valentine.
Valentine was the only woman in her department.
A lot has changed for female service members since then, and she said it's about time military policy caught up to reality.
As an administrative assistant at La Crosse County Veterans Services, she talks to vets every day. They tell her many female troops are already in combat roles; it's just that the military hasn't officially acknowledged them until now.18271292
"There is no front line," said Valentine. "When you go on patrol, you could be a truck driver and, if you get attacked, right then and there, that's the front line."
Female veterans have told Valentine it's tough to get promoted to top-level jobs because most of them require official combat experience.
"They weren't even getting the same medals. They were in the same positions. They were there. But getting the acknowledgement was really hard," said Valentine.
She said she's excited the military is taking a big step toward giving all soldiers equal opportunities to serve their country.
"Your ability is going to decide what job you can do and not just your sex, or your age or your experience. That's my hope, is that your abilities will decide what you can do," she said.
More than 800 women have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 130 have died.
Every branch of the military will have until May to come up with plans for opening all units to women, and until the end of 2015 to implement the changes.
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