“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.”
In 2007, I joined the Marine Corps and proceeded to spend five years resenting the term “Female Marine” — or more simply “Females.” Even at the age of 19, I considered myself a feminist, but to me that meant being equal to my male peers, not segregated by my gender. The day I humped back from the Crucible and my drill instructor gave me my Eagle, Globe and Anchor, Sgt. Joint didn’t say, “Congratulations, you’re now a Female Marine.” Joint said, “Congratulations, you’re now a Marine.”
Today, 10% of the veterans population comprises women; we have been around since the American Revolution. So, why does the notion of “women veterans” seem foreign to most people? Why are women veterans treated differently?