Minn. women veterans: 'Women have been equally valuable'

  • Updated: January 23, 2013 - 8:53 PM
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Navy veteran Trista Matascastillo

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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Many local women veterans see the Pentagon’s move as a natural progression to acknowledge the obvious: that the nature of modern warfare has put women warriors in harm’s way, even if their official duties are not designated that way.

As a youngster, Trista Matascastillo told her father she was going to be the first woman in the infantry. But when she went to join the Navy at 17, she had to wait for an opening for a female. When it came, only two options were available to her: parachute rigger or electronics. She spent 7 1/2 years in the Navy, four years in the Marine Reserves and six years in the Army National Guard.

With the announcement, she jokes she is considering finishing up her military career again. Matascastillo heads a local organization called the Women Veterans Initiative Working Group and was the former head of the DFL Veterans Caucus.

"For years it's been one of those things: We've always been told America is not ready to see its daughters killed at war," she said. "The last 10 years have proven that our enemy doesn't fight that way. Women have been equally valuable and an integral part of our war years. It's long overdue. It's truly the recognition of the women who may have lost their lives or been wounded."

Nancy Davis-Ortiz, who retired last year as a lieutenant colonel in the Army, said she recognized throughout her career that limitations were going to be put on her advancement.

"We have all types of specialties ... for officers in the Army, but certain ones you get promoted a lot easier and a lot quicker," Davis-Ortiz said. "Administration, personnel, that's where you find a lot of women. Those are hard ones to make full bird [full colonel]. The combat arms, to make that open to women, is huge."

MARK BRUNSWICK

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