Not Just One of the Guys

My cousin Haley and I in Afghanistan, 2010.
My cousin Haley and I in Afghanistan, 2010.

Women are veterans, too

While on the phone recently with USAA Mortgage services, I had a conversation that I laughed off, but deep down, it stung. 
My husband and I were buying a house and using our VA home loan benefit. Everything was in the final stages, and we were closing the next day. Right as we finished the call, the representative concluded with “Please thank your husband for his service.”
In that five second pause that followed, I mentally flashed through dozens of conversations I’ve had, stories I’ve read and personal encounters shared with me.
There are the conversations where I was asked what my husband did in the military; questions from military affiliated organizations regarding my husband’s service record; stories about female veterans’ dubiously questioned over their veteran’s license plates; and female vets at Veteran’s Administration offices being asked if they were making appointments for their husband, father or son.
There’s the friend whose husband refers to his military dependent ID card as his “bitch card.”
There’s the times I was told I was too pretty or nice to be in the service, or I didn’t look like I was in the military. Whatever THAT is supposed to mean.
Or my personal favorite, the time I was told only lesbians joined the military. 
Although I tried not to let the man on the phone’s comment bother me, a low flame of indignation welled up inside me. Here we were buying a home through a bank I had been with for 14 years, a bank dedicated to serving military members and veterans. We were using a VA benefit, one available to us because of my military service, and the company was thanking my husband. 


Now, please don’t misunderstand my frustration.

I firmly believe that military spouses DO serve. They sacrifice and give for their country alongside their veteran. They often have to give up careers or put them on hold, accepting slower professional progression and setbacks as a side effect of moving every few years. Spouses usually handle a multitude of details, large and small, often running the household and family schedules. They accept that they will handle birthdays, anniversaries and holidays without their spouse. Military spouses willingly take on the extra burdens and household responsibilities that come with TDY’s and deployments.

There’s no doubt in my mind that military service encompasses the entire family. 

Former Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, visiting military members in Afghanistan.
For the most part, I understand why the average citizen assumes my husband is the military member. Men still serve in larger numbers than women, and the growing divide among the American civilian population and its military community has been documented increasingly over the last few years. Read about it here, here or here.
However, I still find it irksome that everyone automatically assumes my husband is the military member.
I didn’t write this post to sound whiny or needy — far from it I hope. Ultimately, I can only hope that this post raises awareness about female veterans.
I didn’t join the military for recognition.
I don’t stay in for the gratitude.
And it’s definitely do not mean to disparage my husband, who is nothing but supportive and proud. He’s always quick to point out my service or correct people when they assume he’s the military member. Sometimes I even secretly enjoy watching the surprised faces. Mostly, I find it ironic I suppose. Women serve in larger numbers today than at any other time in U.S. history.
Currently, there is an estimated 2.2 million female veterans with approximately 280,000 serving in the post 9/11 Global War on Terrorism era.
While it’s not about gratitude or receiving thanks, it is about the assumption that because you’re a woman, you couldn’t possibly be a military member. I think it’s about acknowledging that the woman sitting in the VA hospital JUST MIGHT be a veteran herself. It’s about being overlooked, disregarded, forgotten and often, invisible. Nowhere else is this more apparent than when a female military member or veteran is dealing with an organization that should be aware of their military status. 
As for that phone call, the pause spoke for itself. I politely said “I’ll let him know” and we moved on. Every time I’m told to thank my husband for his service, I try to be gracious as possible.
But part of me also thinks, man, we have so far to go.


  1. When I graduated basic training, our drill sergeant sat all the females down and told us there were two types of women in the army – bitches and sluts. Make the right choice.

    When I studied my job speciality at home (raising 2 kids by myself!), stayed late, showed up early, and took every opportunity to learn more, I was told I passed evaluations because I flirted with the instructor.

    When I was deployed, I felt more isolated than I’ve ever been because military wives were uncomfortable with their husbands having female friends.

    When I had runners knee and pains and aches I never once went to sick call because I was the only female in my platoon and I was afraid to look weak.

    Every time I succeeded it was because females had it easier or got special attention. Every time I struggled it was because females just don’t have what it takes.

    Not everyone was like this, and I remember and value those leaders and peers who saw me as a soldier first. But on the whole, the Army has a long way to go in accepting and supporting female service members. I got out after my first enlistment despite being truly passionate about my job.

Comments are closed.