We think it’s worth asking the question, What does a Veteran look like? When you picture a veteran, what is the first image that comes to mind? Is it someone of a particular age? A certain race or ethnicity? Is it a man? Do you see someone who looks tough? Someone who dresses a certain way, acts a certain way, or ascribes to particular beliefs?
When you interact with people in your community, how easy is it to judge who seems like a veteran and who doesn’t?
When a woman parks in a veteran space at the home improvement store, do you find yourself judging her right to park there? When she asks for the veteran’s discount, is it easy to assume she is the veteran’s wife? When she wears veteran accessories, do you wonder if she borrowed them from her Dad?
ASSUMPTIONS AND TRUTHS
These are definitely not criticisms, but an acknowledgment of common assumptions. These assumptions are sometimes deeply ingrained. They can be subtle, unintentional—almost imperceptible by the bearer. In this case, it is based on several hundred years of what was not just legal, but also culturally acceptable regarding military service. Put frankly, the military system was built by men, for men.
Yet women have always participated willingly in efforts of war, even when they had to do so in secret. (Think Deborah Sampson, one of the earliest known women to enlist. She fought in the revolutionary war as a man in 1782, just seven years after the US Army was established). Over time, laws and cultural norms change. And some women have fought hard to ensure it. Today, the percentage of women joining the military is increasing while the opposite is true for men. This means women are a growing segment of the living veteran population, too.
WHAT DOES A VETERAN LOOK LIKE?
We know that a great number of veterans look like men. We also know that two million veterans look like us, and more. Women who are strong, and diverse in every way. Women of all ethnicities and backgrounds. Women who fought in every era and conflict of the last century. We are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have contributed both in efforts to win wars and keep the peace. We are your neighbors, your co-workers, the small business owners in your community. We are doctors and nurses, lawyers and contractors, teachers and first responders, senators and congresswomen.
We once swore an oath and gave our all to this nation, each of us now utilizing what we learned in service to give in a different way. We are here to leave our mark, contribute something positive, and leave something of value for the generations who come after us. And we ask that you see us as part of the broader veteran population.
When you think of what a veteran looks like, it is our hope that the image in your mind is diverse. We hope the assumption you make is that it could be us. Because two million-plus times, you will be right.
Thank you to our real-life Lady Vet models:
AJ, US Army Veteran
Karen, US Army Veteran
Bethanie, US Navy Veteran
Carmen, US Air Force Veteran
Katy, US Air Force Veteran
Photos by Mellow Daisy Photography.
We love to hear the experiences of real women who served. Share your story for a chance to be featured on the Lady Vet Blog! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.