Bullets, Bras, Tanks, & Tampons
Written by CarrieAnn Grayson, an Army veteran who served in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. After being medically discharged from the Army in 2008, she became a middle school technology teacher in Texas and now lives in Colorado, finding her “peace & strength” and continuing to serve through her work with Project Sanctuary.
“Thank you for your service,” said the gentleman to my male friend standing next to me at a veteran’s event. My friend looked at me perplexed because he was never in the military. Throughout the night, my friend quickly caught on as this phrase continued to be spoken to him as I got ignored. He started to simply respond with “I wasn’t in the military, SHE was.” After years of being out of the military, this still happens a lot. I understand the misconception with the stereotype the world has set up, but I have yet to figure out how to combat it.
There are thousands of “wounded warrior” programs out there, including ones at the VA. The problem is that most don’t offer services for, or accommodate, female veterans. You would think that we were aliens asking for manicures and pedicures. “What do you mean you don’t offer services to female veterans? You have them for male veterans, right?”
I recently received a not-so-shocking response when I emailed a program asking for an application for a female friend. “Our only issue is most of our trips are all men. We have had females before but has not always worked honestly. The guys will be guys and not all the female participants were comfortable in that atmosphere. We also need to have 2 – because we need 2 per room to fit the troops. So it has usually not worked for those reasons.”
Another program I tried to sign up for responded back with “we don’t have the resources for a female retreat.” Some claim that they only have an all-male staff or use other excuses to why “no females.” One program claimed that male veterans don’t like to be around female veterans because the males won’t open up and aren’t the same in front of females. Honestly, I do get some points, but why exclude females altogether?
One very large veteran’s program claimed they didn’t offer a PTSD female program as often as they did the males’ because “female veterans don’t have the interest.” I exclaimed that if they gave me a date, I would FILL the program with females. Crickets…crickets…
Last time I checked, I served with men in the Army to include downrange in Iraq. We all shared the same toilet, shower, and even sleeping quarters with hundreds of people at one time. (Okay, not all at the same exact time, but you get the point.)
So if you are a veterans’ program – please stop shutting out female veterans! This is discrimination, bottom line. Put some extra effort and find a way to accommodate all veterans. Not sure how it can be done? Email me, and I’ll help. I personally want to participate in the same programs that male veterans do. I admire the veteran programs that offer co-ed options, or all female/male options. This at least gives each gender the right to choose what they want to participate in and who they want to be around.
Thankfully, Project Sanctuary encompasses the whole family, and I never had to worry about being an outcast. It’s really not even about having services for female veterans: just have services for veterans, period. It’s not that hard. If it is, you’re in the wrong job or doing it for the wrong reasons.