Women Veteran Challenges

Mosaic image of women Veterans

Veterans Look Like You

Any woman who’s ever served her country knows what it feels like when other people assume that couldn’t possibly be you. The complete look of surprise, the automatic glossing over, even the occasional angry assumption that you don’t belong. The subtle (or sometimes blatant) distrust that spurs people to challenge women on their Veteran status, while taking men at their word.

Air Force Veteran Katy Doggett in a contemplative gaze.

Proof of Service, Please: One Woman’s Journey From Proud Airman to Invisible Veteran

She stepped out of her car and was immediately accosted by a man in the parking lot. He pointed out that her husband was not there. She responded politely that she was aware. He kept talking, adamant that she was in the wrong. “Well you can’t park there. This is for Veterans only.”

She told the man she was a Veteran. He insisted she was not. But she didn’t back down. “I said, I was in the Air Force, I did my time. I have a DD-214. He said, ‘No you don’t. They don’t look like you in the Air Force.’”

Women in Combat: Christine Conley in Afghanistan

Women in Combat: How One Veteran Turned Struggle into Strength

After Conley separated from the Navy, she felt the intense gaze of others who didn’t understand what their curiosity cost her. It was like being under a microscope. At this point she was still having surgeries. People would see her in a wheelchair and ask a cascade of questions that left her feeling very uncomfortable. Eventually she stopped talking about being a Veteran, and if people made assumptions, she let them go. “I wouldn’t do anything to correct them because it was just easier. And people don’t always need to know everything. I definitely downplayed and was almost secretive about what I did. Because [I got] everything from disbelief to that awful question: did you kill anybody?”

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