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5 Truly Badass Female Veterans

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester stands at attention before receiving the Silver Star. (U.S. Army/Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp)
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester stands at attention before receiving the Silver Star. (U.S. Army/Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp)

Veterans Day is the perfect time to pause and recognize all who served with honor. But we can’t help using the opportunity to highlight five female veterans from across the force who are extra special thanks to their high level of badassery.

Army: Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester

Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester was the first woman to earn the Silver Star in Iraq for her actions in leading a counterattack against insurgents who hit her convoy.

Also profiled on Task & Purpose, she was one of the first two women to earn the Silver Star since World War II.

Under heavy machine-gun fire and mortar attacks, she and her squad leader set out on foot to engage the enemy with grenades and assault rifles, resulting in 27 insurgents killed, six wounded and one captured.

I'll take "Women Who Are Badass" for $1,000, Alex.

Navy: Constructionman Camella J. Jones

Constructionman Camella J. Jones learns how to operate a large crane. (U.S. Navy/PH3 Paul Mansfield)

Navy Constructionman Camella J. Jones may require a standing ovation. She was the first woman to qualify as a heavy equipment operator and be assigned to a U.S. Navy Construction Battalion unit in 1972.

Have you ever been around a Seabee unit? It is decidedly, um ... male, especially in 1972.

Unfortunately, Camella couldn't take part in the "We Fight" portion of the "We Build, We Fight" motto since she was a woman and not allowed in combat.

That rule changed with the National Defense Authorization Act of 1994, which allowed women to be members of Mobile Construction Units -- too late for Camella, but definitely a result of her service.

Well done to this badass Seabee. You built and, in your own way, you fought.

Air Force: Col. Merryl Tengesdal

Air Force Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal stands in front of a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 9, 2015. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Bobby Cummings)

Air Force Col. Merryl Tengesdal started out in the Navy flying helicopters, which makes it all the more crazy that she is on this list for being the first African-American woman to fly the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane.

Badass alert: Tengesdal made a rare cross-rate move to the Air Force. After teaching a joint flight program, she qualified in 2004 to fly one of the coolest and most difficult aircraft we have.

Did we mention she cruises at 70,000 feet and sometimes shooting stars fly underneath her?

Tengesdal has flown missions for Operation Olive Harvest in Afghanistan and Iraq, and helped combat piracy in the Horn of Africa. She has more than 3,400 flight hours and more than 330 combat hours.

When you have to wear a pressurized suit to fly in one of the world's most hostile aviation environments, then land a huge plane on two wheels, you deserve major props and respect.

Colonel, you are one amazing badass.

Marine Corps: Unnamed Female Marine Officer

Female Marine

We don't know her name, but she completed one of the hardest courses in the Marine Corps.

She is briefly shown in a video released by the service and, as the first female Marine infantry officer, she will lead a platoon of infantry Marines.

To illustrate how little people associate the Corps with female Marines, the site Jezebel originally posted the story with the headline, "The Marine Corps is getting their first-ever woman officer."

They corrected the eye roll-inducing gaffe, but the Marine Corps more than any other service branch has voiced concerns about having women in combat.

But perhaps its reticence and insistence on standards means more acceptance for this unnamed trailblazer because she met the challenge and succeeded.

We hope so, because the beauty of the Corps is that Marines are Marines first and foremost, and they take care of their own.

A hearty "Oorah!" to this badass female Marine — 0302, baby!

Coast Guard: Sara Faulkner

Sara Faulkner. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Faulkner was the first female Coast Guard rescue swimmer. Although two women before her served in the role, they transferred into the service after training in the Navy. Faulkner was all Coastie.

The difficulty of the training and the duty are legendary. People such as Kevin Costner make movies about rescue swimmers.

Faulkner was a champion swimmer who rescued 48 people during Hurricane Katrina. But her biggest challenges were not rough seas or possible death -- it was the constant sexual harassment she endured at each of her commands.

After she filed sexual-harassment charges, her command saw fit to refer her against her will for a psychiatric evaluation, and then offer her a transfer to another command with no rescue swimmers.

She almost left the Coast Guard until a command master chief told her how important she was and that she was a role model for women.

She stayed in, eventually retiring from the service -- but not before cementing her status as one of the most badass Coasties ever.

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