A Female Veteran: The Struggles Don’t End When You Leave

What the hardest part of being a female veteran?

People don’t get you.

It is hard to be a female veteran. And you face many challenges when you serve. But leaving the military behind doesn't mean the challenges disappear. You still struggle to find your place as a female veteran. #femaleveteran #militaryspouse #militarylife

Most people who meet me don’t know that I am a military veteran. Why would they? I just look like a normal girl, like you. I don’t tell people when I first meet them, it just doesn’t come up in conversation. And when it does, normally because someone other than me brings it up. People often don’t know what to say.

There is often an awkward pause and then a “thank you for your service.” And really what else is there to say. I even find myself strangely unable to talk when I meet another female who has served. Normally we are standing in a room full of people and it is hard to ask the questions you really want to ask.

Are you lonely too?

Do you miss the military?

What did you do?

Where did you go?

We don’t speak up

Maybe it is because we don’t talk to people about our service. It is a hidden part of ourselves that we don’t quite know how to deal with. We have done so many things most people haven’t done and it is hard to relate. For me, I can’t always talk about my deployment experience. And to stop and answer questions about any of my past military life requires me to stop and think and look into a side of life I don’t normally visit.

It is easier to just just pretend like you are normal as you attempt to fit in. Maybe if they don’t find out in the beginning about the secret I’m hiding they will still want to be my friend.

Are you leaving the military? Are you unsure what comes next? Struggling with what do next? I can help. I served in Air Force for six years before becoming a military spouse, mom and blogger. The transition from military to mom was a hard one for me and the one thing that helped me was finding purpose again. I want to help you navigate the transition of life after the military and help you thrive. I created a workbook with the tools I have learned the past four years. Leading me from lost, lonely mom to momprenuer. #militarylife

We have been hurt

And maybe the not talking about it is a way to protect myself. Allowing me to forget the past. The hurts hidden deep inside of me. The one person I try to forget the most from my deployment is a girl who wasn’t even in the military, wasn’t even on our team. But she attempted to make part of my life a living hell. And as females often do, she knew where to dig in to make it hurt. It wasn’t until I wound up in tears that she finally decided to back down.

Women like her, who hate me for no reason except for the uniform I wore. Looking back into my past and remembering. I’d rather just bury it inside.

And even some of the good parts of military life are easier to ignore. Like forgetting the look of awe and amazement when a little girl saw you dressed up in uniform. And knowing that you were having an impact right then to show her that she could do anything she wanted to do.

Military Spouses are not an ally

My husband is still in the military and you might think that military spouses would be the next best thing to finding another female veteran friend. It isn’t like the are hard to find. But military spouses don’t enter the military in the same way military members do. Part of it is the oath you take when you become a military member. A willing participant to the military lifestyle and what it represents.

Military spouses join the military family through marriage, not through sweat and tears. They often have misnomers about women in the service from rumors they hear. The typical stereotypes about females serving in the military are not good. So, there is a rift between these two groups. As our paths rarely intersect.

Both part of the military culture, but hardly able to understand the other sides’ woes. Until you walk the life of each part you can’t understand what is going on. But we can work to change that. Military spouses should be female military members greatest ally. While female service members should work to empathize with military spouses who just don’t understand.

Female Veteran – Military Spouse Caught in the Middle

So, here I sit in the middle. Hearing both sides of the story and knowing they are both right and wrong. Is there a way we can find to understand each other a little better and close the rift between us instead of letting our differences drive us apart?

I hope so. I’m taking the risk that if I share my story. The real story. The story I swore I would just keep to myself. If I can help open up the lines of communication and start to bring some healing then I know it is worth it.

It is hard to be a female veteran. And you face many challenges when you serve. But leaving the military behind doesn't mean the challenges disappear. You still struggle to find your place as a female veteran. #femaleveteran #militaryspouse #militarylife

10 comments on “A Female Veteran: The Struggles Don’t End When You Leave

  1. Amanda, how brave of you to share these things to help female military and spouses. I am praying for you. be strong! The truth stands on its own and will help those that have been affected as you have been. Praying for healing to start in all lives that share your soul pain. Praying for freedom to be the amazing women HE already knows we are!

    • Thank you for the prayers and encouragement. This change of writing goes so well with the retreat. I felt God telling me to use my gifts to make a difference for His kingdom and I know that sharing my story will help others.

  2. Hey, Amanda! I just happened to find your website on Pinterest, and I’m so excited to find another female service member who is sharing her story! I will be joining the Air Force on active duty orders in April. I’m struggling to leave behind my boyfriend but hoping we can somehow keep our long-distance relationship strong. Like you said, most people don’t relate to females in the military and there is very little information out there to help OUR spouses. Thanks so much for sharing your journey and I can’t wait to read more!

    • Faith, I’m so glad you found me. I would love to answer any questions and help you on your military journey. Thanks so much for reading and for serving our country. My husband and I spent a lot of time apart. Military life is hard, but it is possible to stay connected.

  3. Hi Amanda! WOW, I’m totally feeling you. I haven’t started my service yet, but some of the things you’ve mentioned here I’ve already begun to see happening in my life. Thanks for being brave and sharing! It’s always nice to know there are others who understand (and who I can come to in the future if needed!).

    • I think it is interesting that I am able to speak to you who are joining the military. I am so glad I can share my experience and provide support to you. I follow you and your hubby on Instagram and relate to so much of what you have to say. I guess it makes sense that you could relate to me as well. I’m always here to help, support and encourage you. Just let me know!

  4. Hey Amanda,
    I just saw your post on Pinterest and it obviously gained my attention. I am in the same shoes as you. I have gotten the same surprised responses from people when they find out that I served and it is always awkward and I feel almost out of place and why should I?! Why does society treat females that way why can’t they be more accepting and understanding. As a female veteran it has been hard leaving that life behind and hard to find people to relate to. So I’m still struggling with how do we move on and how do we humbly be proud of our service? Thanks for posting this it is the perfect explanation of those mixed feelings.

    Ann

    • Thanks so much for commenting on my blog post about the struggle of leaving the military as a female veteran. I am right there with you. I am beginning to talk more about those personal struggles I face and I am so glad to see that people are relating and responding. It means a lot.

  5. Amanda, telling your story is brave & inspiring. Thank you. The struggle for dignity, for medical care, for respect, for understanding is real. Why do I erupt when someone assumes my Veteran license plates are for my husband? Hundreds of little irritations and even more for important things like our VA backed house loan that bears my civilian husband’s name as primary. I loved my career which ended with injuries and disabilities. Let’s hope that sharing will help us all.

  6. It is hard not to get frusterated. We shouldn’t have to explain why we are the ones who served, but it is a continual struggle I find myself in. I’m glad this post could provide encouragement. I am working on a series spotlighting females who have served in the military. I’d love to have you participate. Here is a link to submit your initial response. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScPsBEdqsbc2a6NDlE0X0dGeOmm7nZ_2pxG5nlNX3gjk4cSQw/viewform?usp=sf_link

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