PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is set to announce Thursday a lift on the military's ban on women participating in ground combat missions.
The announcement would open up more than 200,000 jobs for women, who make up approximately 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel. It would overturn a 1994 rule banning women from serving in small, ground combat units and could provide new roles for women as soon as this year.
"I think it's great," Petty Officer 3rd Class Abbe Beaston told WAVY.com Wednesday. "I think as long as they have the [same] will and determination as men, there's no reason why we shouldn't be on the front lines."
For Navy veteran Ginger Miller, the thought of women participating in ground combat and suffering injuries is overwhelming.
"It's sad enough when the men are coming home in body bags, but just to think that our women now may be getting killed on the front lines as well... it's a lot to think about," Miller said.
She has gone on to found Women Veteran Interactive , a support network for women who have served. She said female veterans have already been through enough.
"I'm getting a lot of feedback where people say, 'I'm a woman, I'm in the military and I don't want to go to the front lines,'" Miller told 10 On Your Side.
Miller warned those supporting the change to be careful what they wish for.
Virginia lawmakers chimed in as well.
"It is entirely appropriate to open front-line combat opportunities to American military women, who have repeatedly demonstrated their competence, bravery and reliability serving our nation in times of war," Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said.
"Today's announcement spotlights this reality, honors those contributions and represents an important step forward for our nation's armed services community," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said.
A memorial is scheduled Thursday night for three young siblings who died in an apartment fire 10 months ago.
A donation account has been set up to help the family with its search to find a missing loved one.
Wind chills will be in the single figures Thursday, with snowfall totals in the 1- to 3-inch range.