In 1979, a young Marine officer named Jim Webb penned a 7,000-word essay for Washington Magazine entitled, “Women Can’t Fight.”
Now, it’s come back to haunt him almost 40 years later.
A group of Naval Academy graduates have requested the alumni association reconsider an award expected to be given to Webb, who served as a Virginia senator and ran for president in 2016, because of the essay, reported The Capital Gazette.
“There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat,” Webb wrote in the article. “Their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation.”
Webb is expected to attended the alumni association’s Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony, which recognizes alumni whose character exemplifies the values of the officer corps and have dedicated their lives to service.
When the essay resurfaced, Webb attempted to make amends through the release of a statement in a publication called The Capitol.
“Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article,” Webb wrote. “To the extent that this article subjected women at the academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.”
The decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to give its Distinguished Graduate Award to Webb was “a hit to the gut,” wrote 1981 graduate and retired Cmdr. Laureen Miklos in an email to The Capital Gazette.
Miklos contacted the alumni association to express her concern that Webb's essay, which she says is still referenced by midshipmen, gives credence to students and officers alike who don’t believe women belong at the Naval Academy.
A 1968 graduate of the Naval Academy, Webb served as a rifle platoon and company commander in the Vietnam War. His valorous actions there earned him a Navy Cross and two Purple Hearts for injuries that ended his career. In 1977, he entered politics and served the state of Virginia.