I don’t think female veterans want a special day to honor their service. While I appreciate the gesture, here is why I don’t agree with it and what I think should be done instead.
On June 12, 1948, Harry S. Truman signed into law the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act allowing women to serve as regular service members. Women were already serving the military through the Women’s Army Corp but it was set to expire on June 30, 1948. This would allow women to continue to serve in the military after WAC expired. It also allowed women to serve in all the branches of the military.
When I first saw that Texas and then Ohio set aside a special day to honor women who have served in the military, I thought that it was a nice gesture. I mean, women are overlooked for their military service regularly. Plus, I knew it was meant to be a good thing; it was passed unanimously. But do we need a day set aside to honor women veterans?
Women have been serving in the military for over 70 years, but many people do not know the role or scope of their military service. I guess one way you could correct this is by forcing people to take notice as you set aside a day to honor military women. We already have Veterans Day.
As a female service member, I served as an Air Force Civil Engineer. When I deployed to Afghanistan as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team with the Army, my job was to be a civil engineer. There was no descriptor that changed my qualifications because I was a woman. I did the same training as everyone else on my team, which included members of the Army Infantry.
My job was to go out into the community, evaluate projects, meet with local leaders and start future projects.
There was no distinction between my job because I was a female. Even being in the Air Force didn’t stop me from being sent on an Army deployment and onto the front lines before women were allowed to be there. When I came home from Afghanistan, people regularly asked me what it was like to deploy as a female. The question always surprised me, because the Afghans never treated me in a way that led me to believe I should question my role or authority because I was a woman. They knew I was an officer in the military. I didn’t feel I was treated differently because of it.
With a Women Veterans Day, I feel that people are telling me that my job isn’t valued the same as the men I served beside. That the work I did as a Civil Engineer was different because I was a woman. My female counterpart and I replaced two male engineers and two male engineers followed in our footsteps.
We all went on missions. We all worked hand in hand with the Afghan people. We all did our job. We should both be recognized for our service on Veterans Day.
Even though my service happened when women were not allowed to be in combat roles, I never felt my gender prohibited me from doing anything I wanted to do. I had no desire to be in a combat unit so those rules didn’t affect my thinking. I was continually told to work hard and I could achieve anything I wanted. And today, no job is off limits for women.
One thing I find that the military does better than many other entities is to not look at gender. When taskings come out, they don’t look at our sex and instead look at our qualifications. Although, I’m not saying the military doesn’t have issues with sexism because sexual harassment, assault and dealing with people who don’t want you to be there because you are a woman are not only real issues, but common. But when you look at the military as an institution, the military pays people based on rank. The military promotes people based on merit.
How about instead of having a Women Veterans Day, we start listening to the stories of military women? We should recognize the sacrifices women have made and continue to make to make our nation great.
Let’s stop assuming that women are military spouses and not veterans. Let’s stop correcting women who stand up and say they have served. Instead of saying thank you for your service, let’s start asking about their service experience.Read comments