2012 brought us a 48-hour Veterans Day. The men and women in the United States armed forces deserve that and more. Authentic identity, for example. I’m confessing that when I do a quick word-association with the word “veteran”, my mind flashes to an old white man in a VFW cap. How ’bout you?
Of course, in cities like San Diego, Honolulu, and Norfolk, the fact that 15-20% of active-duty U.S. military is female, with almost 2 million female veterans, is inescapable. Not an excuse, but I don’t live in one of those cities. Result: my image of today’s veterans is rather…moldy.
Intellectually, I know that women are serving our country in record numbers, and my heart breaks for those forced to leave their children behind. In 2011, 39% of all of America’s women vets under 65 had kids 17 or younger living at home. For both Moms and NotMoms, military life anywhere is a bitch, and ladies in uniform deserve every honor we can give.
This Veterans Day I’m thinking about the women who have lost their physical and mental stability both in combat and at so-called cushy desk jobs. They knew they were risking their life for us; it hadn’t occurred to them their sexuality and self-esteem were at risk, too. Just last month (Oct. 2012), the U.S. Dept. of Defense revealed that one in three military women has been sexually assaulted. ONE IN THREE! (Among civilian women, btw, that number is one in six.)
Earlier this year, the Doonesbury comic strip and a powerful documentary, The Invisible War, brought the truth of in-service sexual assault and rape (legitimate rape, for the record) to front-of-mind status. A woman serving in the U.S. armed forces is “more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire”.
The official line is that more people are reporting incidents than in the past, not that assaults are on the rise. Hmmm. There were 901 reports in 2002…and 3,200 in 2011. Ain’t no justification that’ll ever make those numbers look good.
When I think of ‘veterans services’ now, I wonder, are these women getting the psychological help they need? Military females are dealing with a Veterans Administration structured for men. Plain and simple. In 2010, only 37% of the VA’s 144 medical centers had a gynecologist on staff. There’s an OMG for you. The VA recently opened its first and only center for women’s health in Palo Alto, CA. Yay?
Time shared the story of a 25 y/o woman home for just a month who wore her Marine T-shirt to the gym. A a man asked if her husband was in service and she lost it, screaming, “I’m a Marine, you asshole!
I’m determined never to make that particular mistake. “Ever”, as Taylor Swift would say.