Being a Female Veteran

Today is Veteran’s Day.  It’s also the end of World War I, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, if you ever forget that.  It’s a weekend when big retailers offer discounts to everyone and where many food establishments offer free/reduced foods to veterans.  It’s also the day my family lost my Granddad who was a Seabee.  Today is a day where my friends and family post about the veterans in their lives.  There are many types of veterans out there.  There are rich ones, poor ones, combat wounded ones, ones who never fully came back from the war, and ones who we lost at war.  There are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, aunts, uncles, etc.  Many of my friends now have children who serve and who they’re so proud of.  Having said that, this post is not to take away from the sacrifices everyone has made.  This post is actually to bring more attention to the females in your lives who are veterans.  I’ll be sharing some stories of veteran females I know, while protecting their identities, so that you can understand female veterans more.

I am one, of many, female veterans who have experienced a miscarriage while on duty.  We had to maintain our professionalism while suffering from the trauma associated with a miscarriage.  Some of us have had to have these miscarriages while husbands were deployed, or right after a boyfriend left us because they weren’t ready for the baby.  We’ve had to deal with a private matter having Commanders and First Sergeants calling us weak, or wanting to come in and see us, all indisposed, to make sure that’s what was really going on.  We’ve had to go back to work right after the miscarriage, without fully healing physically and emotionally.  The only comfort comes from the Chaplain and his responsibility to make sure you are okay.  Many of us had a service member as a partner who just decided to treat the miscarriage like a battle death and move on without fully healing together.

I am one, of many, female veterans who has left my child(ren) to be raised by someone else for a year or more.  Many of us have the internal struggle of whether we should try and finish our 20 years or if our children need stability and to stay in one place.  Many of us promote quickly and are given positions that require 20 hour days or more.  Many of us can balance, quite well I might add, work and family life.  We are able to take constructive criticism and change things to best fit the mission.  We are able to take off our work hats and come home to our children and husbands and be “Mom.”  We are able to cast aside the worries that our babies won’t remember us when we return from a deployment.  We are able to juggle the fact that we gave up our amazing careers for our husbands and children only to find out that your husband has lied about other relationships and even though he tells you that you’re his world he’s actually preparing the battlefield for his family and friends to hate you more than he hates you because you “ruined” his career by telling the truth about his affairs (which are still against military policy).  We are able to wear many hats however, many of us still struggle.

We struggle with mental health concerns.  We struggle with the death and destruction we have seen.  We struggle with what our children go through because we were so quick to want to start our families we didn’t fully watch our prospective mate and make sure they’ll be there for our children.  We have to give up custody of our children just so we can make a better life for ourselves, after years of being a stay at home mother for our families.  We have all of these concerns and not enough mental health professionals who get it.  Did you know that some studies, such as  Mental Wellness Infographic, show that women aren’t having these mental health concerns due to battle or injury.  50% of these women have them due to sexual discrimination, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.  Women aren’t seen as equals.  I would know.

You see, I was one of those women who matured quickly in middle school.  I was also an athlete.  So, joining the Army gave me the ability to put my brains and exercise skills to good use.  I ran 7-8 minute miles and men would actually want to run alongside of me just to watch my chest.  I hated it.  I would just smile through it because I knew it was best to not bring any further attention to myself.  Then, a wonderful male Soldier told me that I should become a road guard for runs.  You see…road guards wore vests and therefore, my chest was more hidden under more clothing!  So…that’s what I did for the rest of my time until I got a reduction.  There are some women who actually loved this attention.  I was seen as odd because I would scowl and report anything I didn’t feel comfortable with.  I know not everyone liked me, but that wasn’t my concern.  My concern was my son and my career.  My concern was making sure my Soldiers weren’t seen as pieces of meat either.  My concern was making sure that women were truly seen as equal.

So, I’m saying this, on Veteran’s Day 2018.  When you see that woman in a military shirt or driving a vehicle with a Purple Heart tag don’t tell her to thank her husband for his service.  Don’t tell the woman her military service was easier than yours because you were infantry.  Don’t treat the female veteran as something less than what she is.  I guarantee she’s not judging you the same way.  She sees you as her brother in arms.  She sees you as a fellow Soldier, Marine, Airman, etc.  She sees you as family.  Now, see her as family.  Help her reach her full potential.  Love on her.  She deserves it and you deserve it.  She sacrificed more than you realize for those she loves.

 

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