Women do not really consider themselves veterans. I have come to this conclusion after having felt isolated for years as a female veteran. I surprised, "where are all the other woman veterans"? We come back from war, and if we get out, we disperse to our lives and never reconnect. Why is that? Why have not we formed organizations like the men with the VFW, the American Legion, VVAW (Vietnam veterans against the war)?
I really think it is because women have not been in combat or lets say they have not been trained in combat roles. As the combat line blurs or is nonexistent (as in Iraq) in modern warfare, the traditional combat roles become obsolete. today in Iraq women are traveling in convoys, patroling streets, manning checkposts just like the man. The are IN combat every day.
However, we still think of war in old time terms where soldiers line up on two sides and move toward each other in hand to hand combat or tank combat. That does not happen much these days. Most wars that happen now are guerrilla type wars. You never relly know where or who your enemy is and everyone has to be ready to defend.
Will this change the way women are seen in the military? I think because women have traditionally been in rear echelon roles, they do not think of themselves as veterans. Our entire society traditionally views only the combat soldier as a veteran. There is even a hierarchy within the community of veterans as to who is the real veteran. Some combat soldiers have little respect for those who are not in direct combat as evidenced by the use of acronyms such as REMF (rear echelong mother f **** r). Who can blame them? They faced death daily, saw their friends kills, were wounded. Their experience is to be respected and accepted. But I also think that a lot of women feellike their roles in war are not as important because they were not in direct combat. They feel that they should just go back and shut up because the only real solidier is a combat soldier.
Many women have families to go back to, children to take care of so they tend to just move on and put the experience in a box. Women are not people who celebrate violent victory over any enemy. They are not trained to do so. Men are programmed to feel good about anticipating over an enemy.
Women have, in the past, been in support roles in war. Their jobs are just as important and without them, the combat soldier could not do their job. However, they are not given the recognition they deserve.
Only women themselves will achieve the recognition they deserve. No one will do it for us. We will need to form national organizations to serve our needs. We will have to demand the specific services women need. It is women who demand that the lack of support for the children of soldiers and veterans rectified. (We forget children also go through war along with their parents, but there is no room for the needs of children at the VA hospitals and Vet Centers) We can follow the courageous example of Diane Carlson who cooked for years to get a statement of female veterans in Vietnam. We have to look to the women who helped bring the women veterans memorial at Arlington National Cemetary (that few realize exists). We need to gather together as a group to support each other, recognize each other and demand that this nation do the same.