Before I left the military, I felt like I had found my group, my people. I knew where I belonged. And even as a female in the military, the sense of belonging was something I felt. But for a while, after I had left the military behind, I felt like an outsider as a female veteran. Life is different now. Starting the Women of the Military Podcast changed how I felt and I realized I am not an outsider. But I still think it is important to reflect on how I felt and what has changed. Because I know I’m not the only one who has felt lost and like an outsider. And I want women veterans to know they are not outsiders. And they are welcome in the veteran community.
I am a mom, military spouse, and a veteran.
In general, these three things do not go together. Military spouses and moms that goes together pretty seamlessly. Many military spouses also hold the role of mom. But everyone does this parenting thing differently and sometimes the differences make connecting difficult. Female military spouses and female service members or veterans sometimes have tension. Mom groups and veteran groups seem to have very few commonalities. But I have learned about Women’s Veteran organizations and have found community with the women there.
And right now, with two little boys, I’m knee-deep in the trenches of motherhood. When I try to connect with the men who served alongside me sometimes I feel like there is a huge gap between us. I feel like an outsider. I feel like I continually have to prove my worth. Since I no longer can say who I am through the uniform I once wore. I now in civilian clothes have to repeat the story of my service. Because I do not meet the stereotype of a veteran.
Female Veteran Dynamics
I have been told this loss of purpose and belonging isn’t a unique feeling to the just the female veteran community. But I believe the transition is even harder for female veterans. One example I can think of is, if a guy shows up to a military veteran function, it is assumed he has served or is serving. If a female shows up she doesn’t get the same benefit of the doubt. She is often questioned why she is there. And unfortunately, some women still face discrimination that their service is not enough. Even though women have been deploying and serving in combat roles long before they were technically allowed to be there.
But things have changed for me
When I started the Women of the Military Podcast I didn’t know what I was searching for. I truly was just excited to share the stories of other military women because I found them fascinating. But what I found was a community of women. A feeling with each story of not feeling alone. And then I began to connect with Women Veteran Organizations and conferences specifically for women veterans and I was home. I wasn’t an outsider like I thought. I actually had a community ready to support me. A community I never expected to find. And the veteran community at large has also been a welcoming place.
I was worried with the start of the podcast that male veterans would take offense to the work I am doing. But instead, my male veteran counterparts have been so supportive in my journey and have worked to share the work the podcast is doing. And it made me realize that even if I don’t meet the stereotype of a veteran. It doesn’t mean that people don’t value my service.
Do you feel like an outsider in the veteran community?