“M,” an Army veteran who deployed with Army Special Forces in the 1980s, cries when I ask her what she thinks the public should know about women veterans. She wipes tears from her eyes and laughs that she had put on mascara just for our interview. “Really, nothing different than male veterans,” she tells me, smiling and weeping at the same time. “We’re veterans. We served. We wore the uniform, and we were there to do our country’s bidding and we did it. … I think all veterans deserve that recognition and acknowledgement of service.”
It sucks to be a pioneer. At least once in her career, every woman who has served in the military has been the only woman in the room. In addition to the loneliness of being the “token woman,” women who are the “first of their kind” in any occupational specialty or position may simultaneously endure both increased scrutiny and increased isolation. Often, the role of a pioneer is to the ensure that those who follow her only have to do the job they have been assigned to do, and not fight sexism as well. In the process, pioneering servicewomen develop their own strategies to survive.
There are many reasons everyone should travel the world: It’s the antidote to the poison of prejudice. You learn to become comfortable — or at least tolerate — of things that once scared you; the world is a pretty stunningly beautiful place.
“So did you deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan?” is a question that I dread. I often feel ashamed that the answer is no. I am sometimes enraged that the answer was supposed to be yes. But even more so, I am frustrated that answering no means that many discount my service because the public only understands these two conflicts.