Unlike during my time in uniform, these days the American people are showing a much deserved appreciation for our military, and rightly so. Welcome home parades, yellow ribbons on trees and utility poles, a smile and a “thank you” go a long, long way toward making them feel welcomed back home.
Some people are going a big step further. I was pleased to see that author Stephen King just donated $13,000 to help charter two buses to bring Maine Army National Guard troops home for the holidays from Camp Atterbury in Indiana. Game show host Bob Barker, who was a Navy pilot during World War II, donated $3 million to fund a trauma center at Walter Reed Hospital, to provide treatment center for traumatic brain injuries suffered by military personnel.
However, there is one segment of our military that seems to be overlooked all too often in our newfound show of support. In past wars, very few female troops were exposed to combat; usually they were nurses in medical units near the combat. But today’s women veterans are routinely on the front lines doing everything from driving vehicles in convoys through enemy territory, to serving as gunners on armored Humvees, and as Military Police, operating checkpoints.
Yet, many of our female war veterans feel displaced and overlooked during homecoming parades and celebrations. America expects our war heroes to be men (even though all too many of them are actually still boys). The idea of a female soldier facing combat just goes against everything we expect in wartime.
Yet, American women have proven themselves fully capable when the guns start firing. They fight and die right alongside the men, but when they come home, too many of us see a woman in uniform and think she must be a clerk or rear area technician. What too many people don’t understand is that in today’s wars, there is no rear area!
Women veterans say they don’t get the support their male comrades get from the military, and even get overlooked when somebody buys a round of drinks to celebrate the veterans’ homecoming. One woman veteran said she was ignored until one of her male friends said “Hey, she was there too, right alongside us!” Some say they feel betrayed by their male comrades, who avoid them when they return stateside, afraid that their wives of girlfriends will object to the close bond they formed in combat.
Old ideas die hard, but I want to say to each and every America woman in uniform, past or present, whether you worked in a computer lab or stood guard duty at a lonely outpost, whether you saw combat or supported those who did, “Welcome home, Sister. You did damned good, and I’m proud of you.”
Tags: appreciation for our military, author Stephen King, brain trauma center, Camp Atterbury Indiana, combat, convoys, enemy territory, female troops, female war veterans, Game show host Bob Barker, guard duty, gunners on armored Humvees, homecoming parades, Maine Army National Guard troops, military, military personnel, Military Police, Navy pilot during World War II, nurses in medical units, Walter Reed Hospital, war heroes, Welcome home parades, woman in uniform, Women veterans, yellow ribbons on trees