Associated Press
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta smiles at left, as Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey gestures during a news conference at the Pentagon, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, where Panetta announced he is lifting a ban on women serving in combat.

SAN DIEGO — Iraq veteran Alma Felix hopes the U.S. military's new rules to open hundreds of thousands of combat jobs to women will lead society to recognize that female troops can be courageous warriors.

While women have proven themselves over the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan where they have increasingly found themselves in combat because of modern warfare's blurred frontlines, many have come home with the feeling that few know of their contributions, the 27-year-old former Army specialist said Thursday.

Felix said military women often feel like "we disappear into the background. You always hear we're losing our sons out there, and although women have fallen out there, you really don't see very much of it.

"We are the support. Those are the positions we fill and that's a big deal — we often run the show — but people don't see that," Felix said. "Maybe it will put more females forward and give people a sense there are women out there fighting for our country. It's not just you're typical poster boy, GI Joes doing it."

In lifting the ban, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said women have become integral to the military's success and have shown they are willing to fight and die alongside their male counterparts.

The historic change overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

Across the country, members of the military of both sexes said they accepted the new policy so long as women will have to meet the same standards as their male colleagues.

Panetta said that not all women will be able to meet the qualifications to be a combat soldier but said they should be given a chance. He said the qualifications will not be lowered.

Others believe the public may not be ready to handle seeing more female troops come home in body bags or with lost limbs.