What Does Military Service Mean to Women?

I wanted to hear from women who have served. So I asked what does your military service mean to you? How has it affected you into who you are today? These are the answers I received. You can still participate by commenting with your answer in the comments.

women of the military salute

For me, my life was forever changed the day I decided to join the Air Force. I have seen the world in ways I could have never imagined. My life is so different than I ever expected.

The military gave me opportunities and opened doors and I am forever grateful. – Amanda Huffman, US Air Force

“It means that I was able to do something for others that was more than just about myself. My time in service made me appreciate the little things that I was given, like a community and a family that will forever be a part of my life.

I served so that my children would not have to. 

I was able to serve my country and keep those in it safe from the things that they didn’t see behind the walls of a Soldier’s mission. Every branch has a specialty that a Soldier, Airman, Marine, or Gunny chooses so that they can help protect and serve. The one who chooses to join the ranks of their chosen profession has made a commitment to keep our country safe. No one can really understand that until you, yourself have worn those boots.” – Annette Whittenberger, US Army, A Wild Ride Called Life

My military service means everything to me. I joined the Navy at a time in my life when I needed some direction, structure, and money to go to college and in exchange for that I raised my right hand and took an oath defend the constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and bear true faith and allegiance to the same. My military service matters! – Ginger Miller, US Navy, Women Veterans Interactive

“It means service before self, for your country and community.

Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year but when you volunteer or “raise your right hand”, you vote every day about the kind of country and community you want to live in.” – Ashley Gorbulja-Maldonado, US Army, GuideOn Education

“Opportunity is what my service means to me. Growing up in a small rural town in PA, the Coast Guard gave me the opportunity to see the world while learned skills in leadership that would last me a lifetime. My career in military service was cut short due to a sudden medical discharge. The benefits I earned gave me the opportunity to earn a master’s degree and support myself with a job that fulfills my passion while helping other veterans. Like many others who served, I am often thanked for my service. I learned over the years to accept their gratitude and reply with, ‘but, I’m not done yet.'” -Tammy Barlet, US Coast Guard,

“Thankfully more positive things came from my service than negative ones.

I joined active duty at 19. Being able to experience that kind of strength, independence, and belonging as a teenager definitely shaped me into the strong, independent woman I am today. All the stereotypical positive attributes of veterans are true for me: detail-oriented, timely, mature, respectful, team player, etc. These attributes have served me well with forming positive relationships with my superiors (in and out of the military). However, I had a really hard time transitioning from the military to school. Being a veteran is a huge part of me; it’s always included in my “elevator speech.” Because of this, it was difficult to make friends who I felt I had things in common with me.

Even if I didn’t join the military, I was inherently mature for my age; going into college, I wouldn’t have known a life with no responsibilities (job, bills, etc.). It seemed like everyone around me was entitled and still so dependent on their parents that I simply couldn’t relate. I felt like a 30-year-old in a classroom full of 15-year-olds. (It was embarrassing that everyone seemed to be excelling academically except for me. I attributed this to the fact that the military is easy: you’re told exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. In school, you have to figure everything out for yourself, including time management.)

I know I’ll never have a problem impressing employers/supervisors. But forming (and keeping) relationships with peers has been a challenge for me. I’m hoping it will get better now that I’ve started my career.” – Marissa Rock, US Air Force

“My military service represents a failed career,

and is something I’ve almost been ashamed of since I didn’t stay in long enough to “do” anything. Getting medically separated only a year into my service was definitely not what I had expected.” – Laura Schofield, US Army, My Quite Small Life

“Being in the military was the place I needed—to open my eyes, to find my voice, and to make mistakes (and I made a lot). My service was the foundation that I built upon when my time came to transition into civilian life. The lessons that I learned became my guideposts for my future actions.” – Trish Alegre-Smith, US Air Force, Photography by Trish

I was raised in a very patriotic family.

We all tear up when the National Anthem is played. While I was not raised in a military family, it was always an ever-present part of my life. Due to having two retired Air Force and Army grandparents. Serving in the military meant I would have the opportunity to serve the country I loved. But it also opened my mind to new cultures, new countries, and different world views. I spent much of my junior and high school years frustrated with poor grades, thinking I did not have much value. The military challenged and pushed me to realize my full potential. The lessons and skills I learned have continued to serve me almost 15 years after separating. I will always be thankful I had the opportunity to serve. – Maureen Elias, US Army

My military service, that began as a four-year AFROTC scholarship cadet, meant that I found a way, through a mentor who was an Air Force major, to acquire my University education as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. I learned about TRUE leadership very early on as a student at Berkeley. I LOVED stepping up to lead my peers. My time as an aircrew member on the KC135R on active duty taught me that to be part of a team that accomplishes dangerous and demanding missions together in the sky was very very satisfying. No paycheck-collecting job ever approached that sense of selfless devotion, trust in peers’ technical competence, and that beautiful CAMARADERIE.

My service as an aviator taught me

that I love to learn the hard stuff, that I thrive in cross-cultural settings with the most diverse workforce imaginable, and that there so much more of the world yet to explore. In short, it was an honor and privilege to wear the flight suit and Air Force blue as an officer and would do it all again. – Graciela Tiscareno-Sato, US Air Force, Gracefully Global Group LLC

What does your military service mean to you?

This is just the beginning of a long conversation and I would love to hear more people share their experience. What does military service has meant to you? Answer in the comments.

What does military service mean to those who have answered our nations call? Listen to our stories. Hear our experience. #miltiarywomen #militaryservice

2 comments on “What Does Military Service Mean to Women?

  1. After reading about other’s experiences, there seems to be a consensus that a woman’s service holds high importance and meaning to them. This got me thinking about how I wish a woman’s service was as respected and validated as a man’s service. When I mention my veteran status to anyone (but especially a male, and/or a male veteran), it is usually immediately undermined. They are usually not only shocked, but assume I must’ve had an admin job in the “Chair Force” and never deployed. It makes me angry that my service technically fits all of these assumptions, because I’m always made to feel like my service didn’t matter as much as a man’s… even if they had the same exact position as me.

  2. They treat me the same way and my job was anything but what “expected” of military women. But it is frusterating because men are always given credit for their service no matter what their job is. It certainly is a double standard. I’m working to change the stereotype one story at a time. It is a lot of work and maybe we shouldn’t have to do it. But I have found so much support from so many male and female veterans I know that change is happening even at a slow pace.

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