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AP Photo/David J. Phillip

A few months back, I visited with Bill Rausch, the executive director veterans nonprofit Got Your 6. I asked him about the mission of his organization and he put it very simply, “Veterans like serving. They want to continue to serve. We try to empower them do that.” I understood what he was saying back in his D.C. office, but his message really didn’t hit home until devastating hurricane floods affected our neighborhood this past week in Houston. Over the past four days, my husband, a Marine reservist, and I have been evacuating people who lost all their material possessions to Hurricane Harvey.

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Paul Abell / AP Images for U.S. Army Reserve.

I joined the Army at 19, straight out of a grocery store job in California and completely clueless about military life. Looking back there is plenty I would have done differently, like focus on my military skills as much as I did on my MOS skills. When I deployed to Iraq and embedded with infantry units during combat operations I learned real fast that qualifying with my rifle did not prepare me for combat missions, but I managed by watching and copying what the guys did. Being a woman attached to all-male units also required a delicate balance of professionalism and friendliness, something the first women in combat arms units will soon learn.

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AP Photo by Stephen B. Morton

In the spring of 2004, I met a Marine while I was at the gym at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. We decided to grab breakfast together. We were both young captains and we split the tab. Fast forward almost 13 years, that same Marine still eats breakfast with me. It’s only a gesture now, but we still take turns paying.

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U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

For me, going to Ranger School was never about integrating the military. It was never a quest for fame. It didn’t start off as a desire to change the perception of women in the military. I really just wanted the same opportunities that my male peers were given automatically.

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