A moment of pride for 55 women

Sona Aslanyan’s family immigrated to the United States from Armenia 15 years ago, and on Friday, the 26-year-old said she was joining the Army to give back to the country that gave her a better life.

“I wanted to do something good for my country,” Aslayan said. “Not many Armenian women go and join the Army.”

The Van Nuys resident was one of 55 women sworn into the armed services Friday at the Burbank Marriott during a special ceremony billed as the first time women from all branches said the oath of enlistment together.

Aslayan and many of the female recruits said they joined the armed services to have something to be proud of.


“I feel like I have a purpose, a meaning,” said Kiani Ebuen, a 20-year-old from Westlake who was sworn into the Air Force.

About 300 people attended the ceremony hosted by the California Disabled Veterans Alliance, including current troops back from deployment and celebrity guests. They gave a standing ovation after the women were sworn in.

“When they started clapping I wanted to cry, but I got myself to hold it in,” Ebuen said. “I was proud of me and proud of everyone else, too.”

More women have joined the military in recent decades, comprising 14% of all recruits in 2007, compared with 11% in 1990, according to a 2010 Department of Defense report.


About 85% of the military’s women were deployed to combat zones or areas drawing imminent danger since 2001, compared with 90% of their male counterparts, according to the report. About 27,000 women have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Department of Defense spokeswoman Maj. Monica Matoush said.

“I think people forget how many women are in the military,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Wendy Masiello, adding that much has changed since she joined the service in the 1970s. “It makes me feel good that women are represented in the military. They are carrying a huge load.”

Whenever Virginia Gutierrez passed by the Air Force recruiting station at the mall with her father, she said, he would encourage her to sign up. The 23-year-old from Carson always brushed the suggestion off, fearful of what could happen if she joined.

But she changed her mind after learning about the job opportunities.

“I wanted a better life for myself and my family.” Gutierrez said.

Actor Jon Voight, one of several celebrities at the event, said he was moved by the ceremony because of the sacrifices military personnel make.

“It’s always very stirring for me to see these young people understand something about the need to protect our freedom, to agree to put themselves in harm’s way,” Voight said.