MSEJ August 2018 - Page 9

It’s time to check “yes.”

For women who have served in the military, there is an invisible, ever-shifting line when it comes to being a Veteran. These women know they have served, but they don’t know if they’ve served quite enough to count, even when it comes to the military’s definition of Veteran status. If we’re going to move forward, we’re going to have to learn to see ourselves for who we are—as women, and as Veterans.

We have to own our status. I am speaking to myself as much as anyone else as I write this article. Sometimes I get tired of having to explain that women are Veterans too, but all of the men and women who have worn the uniform should be the first to acknowledge that women are Veterans. If we can’t advocate for our status as Veterans, how can we begin to do work for our larger Veteran community, and in our new lives as civilians?

You are in control of your identity—as a person, as a Veteran. I know, it might feel uncomfortable. You might have to put a post-it on the mirror as a reminder first. But you need to internalize that you are a Veteran. Owning your status doesn’t mean you’ve taken something away from someone else. It means that you’re calling yourself who (and what) you are, and you get to control what that means to you. You don’t have to wear ball caps, t-shirts, hang out at the VFW, or sport a bumper sticker on your car (though by all means, go ahead).

However, you do need to check the box for “Veteran” on employment applications, you should feel free to stand up at ball games, and acknowledge your service when you’re speaking to groups. You don’t have to splatter your Veteran status over everything you own, but you do have to reconcile your status with who you are, and where you want to be.

Of the approximately 22 million Veterans in the United States, two million are women.