A recent lawsuit, filed by four military women and the Service Women's Action Network in November, is challenging the military's combat exclusion, which prevents women from holding many positions within the military.
"They can be subject to front line activity, but obviously they aren't going to be infantry," pointed out Marietta-based Army Recruiter Anthony Ellis.
Positions in the infantry, armored and special forces units are some of the 238,000 still off limits to women.
If the current lawsuit is successful, it would have sweeping effects for servicewomen, but it would also have implications for the 1.2 million servicemen, some of whom see the move as a step in the right direction and some who see it as a potential distraction for men risking their lives on the front lines.
"It goes beyond physical. It goes into the mental aspect," said Ellis.
But Marietta resident Regis Kern, 66, says it is time for the role of women to be increased.
"If they want to do it, they ought to have the opportunity," said Kern, the commander of American Legion Post 64.
Kern fought in the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and knows the stresses of combat firsthand.
"I think women now are probably ready for that," he said.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that not only are they ready for combat roles, but they are already serving in them without the same recognition afforded men.
In a blog for the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the suit's plaintiffs, Army Maj. Mary Hegar wrote, "...servicewomen in all branches of the military are already fighting for their country alongside their male counterparts. They shoot, they return fire, they drag wounded comrades to safety, they engage the enemy, and they have been doing these heroic deeds since the Revolutionary War."
Former Marine Mark Kerenyi, 46, of Marietta, reiterated that point.
"It's hard to say 'No, they shouldn't do it' because they already are," he said.
Still, Kerenyi pointed out that it isn't just a matter of capability.
"There's so much more than saying 'Yes, I'm for it' or 'No, I'm against it.' There are issues that really need looked at," he said.
For starters, Ellis noted that fraternization on the front lines could be problematic.
Additionally, women in direct ground combat units could prove distracting to men in an even more subtle way.
"I think men feel like they are the protector," said Marine Private Eli Parmiter, 19, of Marietta.
Parmiter, who just finished boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., said that when fellow Marines discussed the issue, that instinct to protect was a big talking point.
"If it came down to it and you had to choose to protect a girl, you are," he said.
But Parmiter would have no problem sharing combat duty with females, he added.
"For me, it's whatever the head honcho decides," he said.
Former Army Capt. Steve Wainwright, 62, of Beverly, said he thinks women would be a valuable asset in combat roles.
"Women can absolutely do just about everything a man can. Sometimes they can probably do it better," he said.
Wainwright watched his daughter Katie follow in his footsteps. She joined the Army in 1998 and was dropped into her first assignment in Alaska when the temperature was 50 degrees below zero, he said.
"She did everything a man had to do and just as well," he said.